The Power of Choice in Bolder Leadership

The Power of Choice in Bolder Leadership

Identifying and making courageous choices is where our power lies in our leadership and beyond.

“Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made.
If you want a different result, make a difference choice.”– Anonymous

Bolder Moves Through Bold Choices

Anyone who has followed me for any amount of time knows that I am all about Bolder Moves – bold choices leading to greater levels of impact and fulfillment through the rewards such moves promise.

This is because I want to help as many of you as possible to reap the same benefits I have of getting your courage on and of making those moves most in alignment with your True Selves so you can accumulate every thriving point in your favor.

A Kentucky girl from a single-parent low-income household who moved to Paris with little money, no job lined up and limited French skills, I somehow managed to make a life in this country.

This has included learning to get around in a foreign language (albeit with a strong American accent – lol), graduating from two of its schools and being able to navigate the (thick) red tape to set up a bonafide business here.

It all started by trusting that nudge I felt in my body. That was the choice I made, among many others which have enriched both my professional and personal lives.

One of my beloved teachers talks about the distinction between decision and choice: decision is of the mind (rational, logical), while choice is of the heart (intuitive, pulled by body sensations).

She also says that when it comes to joy and fulfillment, in the war of the heart and the mind, the heart will always win. It always has for me. No question. And that’s my wish for you, too.

Choice is power. Being able to claim our choices – and providing space for others to do so as well – is what distinguishes Bolder Leaders from the not-so-much.

The Power of Choice in the Workplace

Most leaders are aware of their ability (or inability) to create thriving environments for employees to flourish in.Choice

Two basic elements allow humans at work to thrive, the ability to:

  • choose
  • have structure

Based on studies, having choice and control in the workplace are what matters to employees – and their work performance.

Tracy Brower, PhD, writing in Forbes, highlights the issues of choice and control, citing the late Barbara Ehrenreich in her book, Nickel and Dimed, who asserted that lack of control – where employees feel they have no choice – is detrimental to the work environment.

Studies have indicated that employees are more involved when they feel they have control over matters that affect them.

When control is taken away or little is available in jobs of high levels of stress, employees’ health is affected. Not surprisingly, it makes a difference when workers feel that they have some say in their next steps and can make their own choices.

When employees have a greater freedom in their workplaces, stress is lessened and performance is enhanced.

The Goldilocks Choice: A Leadership Analogy

Too much choice – or too little choice – have their downsides.

We all remember the childhood story, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. While the bears are out of their little cottage, Goldilocks tastes from their three different porridge bowls and decides for herself that one is too hot, one too cold…and it’s the middle one, neither too hot or too cold, that she likes best.

Thus, the Goldilocks Principle: just the right amount.

That analogy mirrors how most employees feel about their experiences with choice in the work place.

Experiments have uncovered that if people aren’t given enough choices, they aren’t satisfied. Yet giving people too much choice can result in a feeling of overwhelm and may hinder effective decision making.

We’re all pretty much like Goldilocks. Not too much, not too little. It’s a little bit of both. Leaders who communicate and listen will be aware of what level of choice their employees are comfortable with.

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.” – Stephen R. Covey

How Leaders Can Empower Through Choice & Control

So how do we take the Goldilocks Principle from the fairy tale and transform it into everyday business?

It’s all about providing choices. Where to start?

Communication and trust-building are essential. Leaders need to both empathize with employees’ individual needs and to co-create the path to achieving a common vision with them. In giving workers the space to work out how to both follow their own priorities while remaining true to what the organization requires, leaders are setting the tone for higher levels of engagement and impact from their team.

Brower highlights areas where choices may abound:

  • In work scheduling and locations: Research by Steelcase found that 87% of leaders foresee offering much more flexibility to workers, as to location, hours, and how they work in general. These issues are important (and challenging) to balance. On the one hand, employees face school/day care concerns, other family obligations and the need to take better care of their physical and mental health. On the other, leaders need to have times where teams are gathered physically together.
  • Through work content: Yes, of course leaders need to ensure they and workers are on the same page about what needs to be done and by when– but providing variety in how or where this is done is key. It motivates and lessens burnout and can provide new opportunities to boost enthusiasm and create a sense of being a part of something in the workplace.
  • With colleagues: For sure, we tend to work together well with those with whom we feel ‘in tune’, but oftentimes diversity enhances new lines of thinking and fresh creativity. It’s important for leaders to allow employees choices when working together.
  • Via technology & office settings: Specific chair designs, visibility of windows, lighting and reduced noise levels can all contribute to increased productivity. Yet, most people feel even more motivated when they are able to also have choice in their office location. Technology and the various apps it includes allows for tracking categorized time, working from home and even having a dance off with colleagues!

The most important element in any choice we give our people, however, is the strong sense that they matter to the team and to the company.

The Power to Choose is Powerful in Leadership & Life

Surviving – and thriving – post-pandemic has shown us that we can think outside the box and work in ways never before thought.

Most leaders recognize how debilitating it feels when the power of choice is taken away. We must also remember that those who work for us feel no differently.

In a LinkedIn article aptly titled Leadership: The Power of Choice, author Utpal KC reminds us of Viktor Frankl, the groundbreaking Austrian neuropsychiatrist who believed that we humans have a choice of responses to any stimulus. In other words: between stimulus and response exists the freedom to choose.

Yet, he shares, “My experience is that individuals are so used to their spontaneous response to stimuli that many of them cannot even recognise a possibility of freedom of choice between stimulus and response.”

As I look at my own life and leadership here, I chuckle: how many times have I seen myself as a victim – “stuck with absolutely no way out”? Give me a break! How shortsighted I can be when I am unable to identify all my options and see that I am always at choice. Even choosing not to decide is a choice.

Providing choices is key, this we know.

But perhaps we should also recognize our own power to choose – between that moment of stimulus and our subsequent response to it exists the vast, all-powerful realm of one little word: choice.

As we begin to recognize this freedom within ourselves, so also will we be more effective at offering those we lead the dignity and power that comes from the opportunity of choice.

It was the renowned Frankl who spoke the profound words:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—
to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Choice comes in many forms: from setting simple boundaries to speaking up to stating our needs. The truth is, our choice probably isn’t going to be someone else’s choice. One is neither good or bad.

Rather, it’s the freedom of choice that provides the golden key.

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