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The Case for Emotional Decision-making

Do you make big decisions using logic, or emotion?

We’ve been taught not to let emotions cloud our decision-making. But there’s a big difference between making an emotional decision and making a rash decision.

As humans, it’s impossible to strip emotion from our decision-making. Nor would you want to. If we didn’t make emotional decisions, no one would ever get married, have children, or start a business. Our country was founded on the emotional principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Rash decisions can derail our work and lives. But trying to ignore emotion is not only unrealistic; it increases the likelihood of bad decisions.

Recently one of our clients was at a crossroads. They had two opportunities; time and resources limitations dictated they choose only one. During the discussions, the CFO said, “We don’t want to make an emotional decision here.” His comment got me thinking, what if we intentionally leverage emotion to help the team make a better decision?

They had research about both opportunities. Option A had the potential to be about 20% better. But Option B was more exciting to the team.

I recommended Option B. I’d rather have a team excited about pursuing something good, than bored with pursuing something only marginally better. To be clear, this wasn’t solely an emotional decision; they had the data for both options.

Had you put them aside, the potential 20% better financials make Option A the clear choice. But when you factor in a fully engaged team spinning with ideas for Option B, it tips the scales.

The CFO, the ultimate logical analytic, saw the value of pursuing something their leadership team was already excited about. Not surprisingly, they’re now ahead of plan on Option B.

We’re all looking for that perfect decision, the yes or no, go or no go decision that will guarantee us success. We want to insulate ourselves against pain and failure. But life, and business are messy, the answers will never be as clear as we want them to be.  A good decision is simply one that propels you forward.

Logic and emotion can – and should – be part of the same conversation. We’ve all seen organizations make poor decisions when they’re swept away by enthusiasm. Good due diligence can prevent that. Bringing emotion into the conversation doesn’t erase logic, it adds to it. Feelings are an important data point.

That means giving yourself the chance to really sit with your own emotions, understand them, unpack them. It means letting your team express their emotions.

Denying emotions never works. The feelings always come out in the end. Stifling our emotions lead us to crave all sorts of less healthy alternatives, as anyone who ever found solace in a pint of Rocky Road ice cream can attest. Ignoring the emotional component of business decisions results in disengaged teams. An emotive lens on decision-making helps you tap into more creativity and innovation.

Some of my best decisions, marrying my spouse, starting my own business, and choosing the projects I’ve done started with the fact that I simply wanted to do it. They might not have passed the pro con, side by side on a sheet or paper test if I had used logic alone.  But when I factored in my emotions, theses decisions moved my life and business forward in ways I was excited about it. Every single one of them paid off in multiple ways.

Logic is fine to a point. But if you want to make a really great decision, bring in some emotion.