Drink Like a Lady Podcast

Season 4, Episode 2: How to Think Strategically | Decision Making Skills

September 16, 2021 Joya Dass, Meghna Shah Season 4 Episode 2
Drink Like a Lady Podcast
Season 4, Episode 2: How to Think Strategically | Decision Making Skills
Show Notes Transcript

In Season 4, Episode 2 of the "Drink Like a Lady" podcast, we talk about how to improve your decision making skills as a female leader.The focus for Season 4 is "How to Think Strategically." Strategy and decision making are close cousins. 

In Episode 2, Meghna Shah, Director at PwC and a member of my Women’s Leadership Academy,  leads teams and is client facing. She speaks from her experience, on what makes for GOOD decision making skills. 
1. Not all decisions are created equal

  • Understand the types of decisions being made and consider the severity of impact
  • Keep it in perspective 

Have the Right Mindset | Be Solution Oriented

  • Ask yourself, "What are you trying to achieve?" or "Does this action help solve the problem? If this problem is solved in this way will it get e closer to my overall objective/outcome?"
  • Always have your OKRs - the big objectives and key results you are want to achieve, close at hand. 

Take Action | Avoid "Analysis Paralysis"

  • Make a plan
  • Set timelines
  • "Observe don’t absorb" 

It’s not a "Till Death Do us Apart" decision

  • Review decisions periodically to see if the original need is being met/resolved 

Cast a wide net

  • Have a wide variety of acquaintances - working with new people, colleagues improves teamwork and active listening skills and activates a different side of your brain
  • Talk to experts in the field. Diversity of thought is key.

 If stuck - Rest and Recharge

  • Power of exercise - movement brings momentum
  • Sleep on it

You can listen to all 4 seasons of "Drink Like a Lady" at https://joyadass.com/podcasts/
or on Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon Music.

Joya:

Welcome to Season Four, Episode Two of Drink Like a Lady, the podcast that is designed to get you as a female leader, a seat at the bar and a seat in the boardroom. I have another guest speaker with me today. My guest co-host is Meghna Shah, who is a director at PWC she's most recently come over from Ernst and Young. I say that all so that you realize the credibility and the credentials to sit behind this woman today. I'm also happy to call her my friend. Meghna, how you doing?

Meghna:

I'm doing great, Joya, thank you so much for having me

Joya:

Meghna. So this season, as I mentioned to you, we're focusing on how to think strategically. And today, specifically on this episode, we're going to be talking about how to improve your decision making skills. Before we launch into the tips for everyone, what would you say? How are they kindred spirits thinking strategically and being, and being a good decision maker?

Meghna:

Yeah, absolutely. I think they both are so related. Right. And one of my core philosophies while making any decisions is what is the outcome and the end goal that you have in mind for what you're making a decision, right? Because you not making a decision for decision's sake, it's usually to get some objective or outcome out of it. And that's why I think they're so closely related because when you take a step back and think about what is the end in mind, and you're thinking strategically, sometimes the decisions just organically flow from there.

Joya:

Awesome. Awesome. All right. So today we're talking about all of the decisions that people make, but let's give a little bit of background. How does decision-making figure into your everyday now that you're leading a team at Price Waterhouse Coopers or PWC?

Meghna:

Sorry, let me say, yeah, no , um, I mean, yeah. Decision making is part of like everyday life, right? Like every minute we're making decisions may be strategic, tactical, operational, it could be a people decision. Was it the process decision? You know, I'm also a mom, so I'm also making like, you know, decisions on the fly, on what spots for lunch and you know, whatever you're going to be doing for the weekend. So there's so many different types of decisions that we're constantly making. Um, that it's, it's, it's challenging. And it's important to kind of have some sort of a framework or some sort of a grounding, north star, if you will , uh, that can kind of bring some sanity to this chaos.

Joya:

You said that now the buck kind of stops with you because you're a director at this new company. How many people are reporting into you?

Meghna:

I mean, it's a , it's a consulting firm . So I mean, we have a practice internal to the consulting and then we have a client facing team as well. We're working on an engagement. So we're working with client organizations and we're working with more than a 100/150 people in the client organization. We have a PWC team of like five to 10 people. So it also gets interesting because now you're making decisions sometimes without, you know, you have to influence without authority and you have to make decisions, right, without knowing fully about the culture of the organization and how things are made. And you could be an outsider coming in, making decisions for them. And that is a whole different , uh, you know, after the fact , if you will , uh , at the consequences that you need to think about when making those types of decisions. So , um , so it's distributed.

Joya:

Awesome. All right . So not all decisions are created equal. That was your first point that you wanted to make. What does that mean? That all decisions are not created equal?

Meghna:

Yeah, absolutely. So I think understanding what decision you're trying to make and the severity of the impact is so critical in making a decision, right? Because there could be a decision that just needs to be a quick decision that you need to make, like, what is the font of this, you know, file and you don't have to be, do we want to send an email attachment or do we want to make this a meeting, right? Like there , and I'm just, I'm being, you know, make the, a very, very simple example here, right? And those are fast decisions that need to be made that still needs some element of thinking and recognition of the impact that this group is better on email. This group is going to be so mad if they see another meeting pop up on their calendar, but those are the decisions that you're making and it takes back. Right. Um , and then there are other decisions which have a more severe impact either on the organization or the course of the engagement it's going to impact more people. It could be a decision you can necessarily pivot very easily from. And that requires a little bit more thinking , uh , and consensus building and just all of the other frameworks and tools that are available. So I think recognizing the , what is the type of decision I'm making right now and what is the impact? And so how much time and effort should I put into it is so important. Otherwise you'll go crazy.

Joya:

Yeah. I remember reading the Bezos letters and at Amazon, they have type one decisions and type two decisions, type one decisions are ones that you make fast, you pivot fast, you know, this isn't working, let's change. Type two decisions require a six page memo and a narrative, and take much longer to find or to come to arrive at, but you just need that much more due diligence on the front end.

Meghna:

Exactly. That's exactly right. Right. I think, I think, yeah, that's probably a way more articulate way that talks about it. Right. But it's , it's essentially that what are things where not just for yourself, but also for your teams, you know, the level ones are the ones where you can even empower your teams to go ahead and make those decisions. But then you can also use that same concept to be like for any L two type decision-making, this is where you need to loop certain people in. Right. And this is what the governance framework looks like.

Joya:

I'm a big fan of allowing creative freedom to make your own decisions, because I now have a little tiny team and I'm laying out the bumper guards. Here's success. Here's failure. Here's the topic. Here's when to bother me. Here's when not to bother me now go. Yeah. Is that your approach as well?

Meghna:

Yeah. I mean, it's , uh , yeah, I mean, that's, that's the ideal one where, which are, these are the types of decisions and these are the type of, you know, risks and issues that should be escalated versus this. Yes. You know, you're a smart person. That's why you're on the team. You know what you're doing, you know? Yes. More power to you and go figure it out. So there has to be that level of like autonomy , uh, for folks to kind of make their own decisions and have this whole decentralized framework. Uh, but again, right, like everything, the certain key decisions that are made at the start of the engagement that, Hey , this is how we want to go strategically. So as long as everyone's aligned on their , on the overall objectives, and you've heard me talk about this joy a lot about OKR , you know, how much I swear by my OKR, which is OBJECTIVE AND KEY RESULTS. So as long as everyone's kind of aligned on the overall objectives, you could cascade the key results down based on which level you're at and what part of the project you're working on. But it all needs to come back to the same objective.

Joya:

I'm a firm believer that mindset is everything. But even when it comes to decision-making , the right mindset is key and you've got to be solutions oriented. Now I often think about myself as very results oriented on a disc assessment, but what does it mean to be solutions oriented?

Meghna:

Yeah, no , that's, that's, that's true. Right? Like we really think about results and we think about action oriented that you want to not just go into analysis paralysis mode, but also kind of then take an action, right. Because especially, you know, kind of where we are right now, how organizations work. There's a lot of consensus building. There's a lot of light into the meeting. Let's make sure everyone's okay with certain decisions that are being made, which is great way to work because you're building fences and therefore driving adoption. But it also makes it harder sometimes to make a decision because you're going to not have everyone aligned. That's never going to happen. Right? And that's what kind of, and that's why I've pivoted the words from action-oriented that let's just make a decision to what is the solution that we're trying to go after. Right? And then what is the decision we need to make for that solution? So it's not your decision or my decision, but this is what the solution we want, which is why this is the next best step to do. Um, and then just putting on that hat on just helps change. Then the narrative, changes the, the , the vibe in the room, and then you're, you're truly making a decision, which is you're taking an action. It is results oriented, it's action oriented, but you're not worried as much about the result of the decision, as much as this is taking us a step towards our solution.

Joya:

And then layer on the mindset on top of that. And you might see me disappear for one second, but I'm plugging in my, my computer. So it doesn't die in the middle of our interview. But how does mindset figure into, and to decision makers ?

Meghna:

Yeah, I think, I think coming in to the meeting with an open mindset that is not like, oh, this is what I mean, I'm sure you, I'm sure you've heard about the book. Right. Like think , um , Thinking Fast and Slow? Um, and that basically talks about, you know, we make those fast decisions based on our experiences or our biases or anything that we bring to the table. Right. And it's so important to come to the table when you're making a decision and really looking at the facts, really looking at the data, putting your biases and judgment aside, and you know, that you gravitate towards, but really kind of looking at what the problem to be solved it . What is the solution you're really trying to get to? And , uh , you know, what decision you need to make. And I think that's what I mean by the mindset.

Joya:

Is that hard. Do you find that like for seasoned professionals, maybe not so much, but is that mindset shift hard for people?

Meghna:

It is hard, right? Cause that cause the , the more experienced you are, right? I mean, essentially you're being invited to that table because of your experience, right? You're, you're, you're coming and speaking to a particular problem and helping organizations and people make decisions based on what you've seen other organizations do successfully or not do successfully. Right. So there is a little bit, of course , which is, you know, I'm contradicting myself because of course you need to come with a certain level of opinion on what you think is going to work. What's this , what is not going to work? So that's always at the back of our head, but I think as, as you know, to be a better professional to our clients, I think that's the piece that we have to check ourselves at . What's true for them, right? Like what makes us real for their environment? So yes, this works for Facebook. This works for Amazon, but this may not work for your organization. Right. That's great that we want to be like the tech organizations of the world, but that's not going to fit here because then all these other edge cases that don't apply, right. Things like that. So I think that's where we kind of check ourselves and use something as a non-starter and a mile marker, but , um, you know, kind of being like, Hey, I've seen this happen differently somewhere else, but maybe I take a step back and this is not something that can work in this organization.

Joya:

Talked about in previous episodes of drink, like a lady open mindset, growth mindset versus six, fifth fixed mindset. So I'm glad you brought that up. All right. So the next piece of decision-making and how to be better at this is to avoid analysis paralysis. I need a definition please.

Meghna:

Analysis paralysis is like a very popular term in consulting or in some of the organizations where you've just done so much analysis that you're now, you know, paralyzed to make a decision because you can find data and opinions to support any argument. Right? So have you talked to enough people, you can support both sides of the argument. You can support all the different alternatives that you have chosen that could be good paths to , to make that decision or solve the problem. So this is, this is where it is about, you know, not falling for the trap of analysis paralysis and analyzing to a certain extent where you have all the data and the facts you need. You've spoken to the experts in the industry. You've spoken to people who are going to be impacted by this and then, and then drawing that line. Right? And by line, I mean, setting a timeline, like what , how much time do we have to make this decision? Or we could spend months making a decision and not come to something, right. So making a plan, setting a timeline , um, and you know, accepting that, that there are a lot of people around you. Um, you've heard me say this, you know, one of my other favorite favorite lines that I can say is observe , don't absorb, right? Which is one of my most favorite thing that I don't know where I heard it. Right. But it's one of my most favorite things that there's so much stuff happening around you, and you need to observe everything and see how that fits into your hypothesis and what decision and problem you need to solve. But you cannot absorb everything and make somebody pinpoint the number one thing that you're solving for, right? So you cannot eat the loudest voice in the room or the most emotional problem in the room take over the narrative of what the decision needs to be. Um, and that's, that's essentially, you know, what , what I mean by analysis paralysis and just setting timelines and being able to be like, great, this is what we are going to do. And then we pivot if we need to, and this, again goes back to the type of decision you're making. Some decisions do need to take, you know, more than a meeting to solve. Right . Then again, you weight out with the probability. You wait out, wait , you know, impact, and then you make a decision.

Joya:

I have a key , I'm curious and maybe have a story does to support this. What do you do when you notice that pride is getting in the way?

Meghna:

Oh my God. Um, that one's tough, right? Um, like

Joya:

Hide is trumping the end solution. The pride is trumping any due diligence or analysis that's been done. Yeah .

Meghna:

I mean, that happens, right. That's the reality of our situation. And that happens and , you know , uh everyone's and again, I like to believe that folks do that because of their pride of the product and the solution that they are talking about. Right. Everyone's very attached to, you know, the it's like your baby, right? Like that's something that you are nurturing, you're building. Um, so you're of course, very protective about it. And then pride comes from protection. Um, I think what helps in this case, even though it sounds so cheesy, again, I go back to, that's why being solutions oriented, right? Like what is the problem we are trying to solve and believe it or not, Joya, this is something that I really noticed or internalized after I had a child, this is a very, very, you know, maybe I'm oversharing and my husband would like this. Right. But , um, he, and whenever he and I used to fight, I always wanted to be right. And I'm like, Nope , I'm going to win this argument because I want to be right . Right. It doesn't matter. And I'll use any tips and tricks in my toolkit to make sure that I get my point across. And I win right now after we had my son. And there's something about him, it's no longer me being right. It's about, is this good for him? And if it's not good for him and it's not serving him, then it's not the right decision. So it's not your decision or my decision, but what's going to benefit our son. The most, that's just changed our relationship and how we argue, because it's not about him or me anymore. It's about something else. So I think that is my go-to tip or trick whenever I'm caught between, you know, two stakeholders or it's me and someone else, and we're stuck in a, in a lock, but we were both not ready to let go. It's like, okay, what are we solving for? Right. Like what are we really solving for? And let's think about that instead of thinking about you and me ,

Joya:

The next tip that you offer is it's not "'Til death do we part." What does that mean?

Meghna:

That's a vetting. Val is exactly that it's a , that that's, that's just me being , uh , you know, bringing some levity into this that, you know, no decision is like, non-reversible right. Of course there are certain decisions which are non-reversible , but we're not talking about those. Um, but there are some, you know, everything that we're doing, especially in the work environment, you know, you can learn and adjust and pivot if you need it to , and this, again goes back to the other point around analysis paralysis. Like don't wait to make a perfect decision. You need to have the data, you need to have stuff to support it. You need to have the right consensus. You need to have a right plan of action, understand your impact and consequences. And then go ahead and make the decision if the decision is not right, but you keep reviewing it periodically to see if this is the right decision. Is it, is it giving you the output that you desired it one and you keep checking in on it and keep this like a GPS that you changed direction if things are not working right. To get to your eventual goal. Um, and , um, yeah, that's, that's kind of what I mean by , uh, you know, you're not married to it. Uh, and , uh, you know, it's, it's a muscle you just need to keep practicing and you'll keep , keep getting better at making decisions that are more , um, um, effective.

Joya:

I'm thinking about this article that I read once about creative people and what is the difference between successful creative people and unsuccessful creative people and the successful creative people while they could iterate on whatever it is are creating for for years, months, decades, they come to a point where they're like, this is it. And I'm putting it out there. The unsuccessful people hold onto it and they keep iterating and keep iterating because they're saying it's not perfect. And I'm reminded of that as you're talking about 'til death do we part everything is reversible to some extent.

Meghna:

Yeah. I think Sheryl Sandberg said it in her book, right. That a done is better than perfect. Right . Get it done. You know, and again, like I said, this is all caveated by what type of decision you're making and what is the impact of your decision, because you don't want to be frivolous about it, but the idea would be if you have all the data and you've done the research and the thought process, then make a decision. And if it's, if it's wrong, we make a new one. Okay .

Joya:

The last point that you make here is, well, sorry, you've got two more points, but to cast a wide net, in other words, talk to a number of different stakeholders with differing opinions in order to arrive at your decision. And it's funny because I actually did a whole series on proving your value or stating your value as a consultant or as a business owner this week. And one of the things that I recommended is that if you are somebody who's not clear about a topic, make sure you read three books, but make sure that those three books come at the topic at three different angles, not the same angles. Okay .

Meghna:

That's very similar. Right. And I think, I think the caveat here, Julia, is it's not just about talking to different people while making the decision, but just in your day to day life, having avenues for different types of people and opinions and thoughts in your life, right. Having, you know, people from different backgrounds, having different experience, right. And presenting a problem to them, which is not typical in their industry and seeing how they solve it can actually spark five different ideas for you, but you hadn't really thought about. Right. Um , so it's also more about just kind of surrounding yourself with colleagues and people and talking to other folks in terms of, you know, what is it that they're working on? Cause it , it also exercises a different part of your brain, right. When you're talking to , if you're not, if you're talking to someone that you're not, you know , or not be usually the people that you're talking to are not maybe super familiar with the finance lexicon and they're more in media or creative , um, nothing , sometimes the problem that you're trying to solve for the most granular level. And as you're doing that, that's uncovering certain ideas and solutions that just not presenting itself. Um, so yeah, that's, that's what I mean by cast a wide net, because you don't want to do the, when a decision needs to be made and you start talking to everyone that just too many opinions to take, you know, enjoy it. Um, and all of this is caveated. And of course, you know, everyone listening to this, this podcast is, you know, is familiar with the nuances of the different types of decisions. But , um, yeah, that's, that's, that's what I would say that it's , uh, in addition to talking to experts in the field, talk to people who have got nothing to do with the field , um, because you know, problems are problems at the end of it.

Joya:

It's such a buzzword now, but what I feel like you're talking about is diversity of thought. And I think that that's probably the best kind of diversity when it comes to decision-making all right . Last but not least. I love this one because I'm a huge advocate for self care , if stuck rest and recharge.

Meghna:

Yeah. I mean, self care , you nailed it. Right. I think it's all related to self-care at the end of the day, you know, you can have all the tools and frameworks, you can make your pros and cons list . You can have your decision matrix and fancy Excel spreadsheets, right. Uh, but again, you sometimes need to take a step back and let it rest and let it sit . Um, and I've thrown in recharge there . Cause you know, I'm a big fan of this. I really believe movement brings momentum. So get on a bike, go for a walk exercise, right. It just helps you feel unstuck. And it's not about making the decision it's about what is that decision going then bring to you to get closer to your outcome. Right? Having that, that lens is something that you need to sometimes take a step back from. And like, you know, you , you people say like sleep over it. Right? Think about it. That's because you're mad and eating everything that you've heard. And now you're using a combination of data and your instinct and your own experience to then come up with a decision that feels right to you.

Joya:

And we're such doers, right? We think that a marker of productivity is that you're always doing, but there's so much purchase in just taking a step back and providing your brain that time and distance to be able to arrive at a decision that's not constantly being stimulated. Okay .

Meghna:

Absolutely. One of my, one of my executive coaches at once said is something she uses very frequently is slow down to speed up. Yeah . And I love that. Um, cause that's what you need to do. Sometimes we w we all want to go at like million miles and hours and make decisions. Uh, but sometimes you just need to take up .

Joya:

Okay. All right. Bonus question. Before we close this out, what's the hardest decision you've ever had to make?

Meghna:

Oh my God, there's so many, but I think the hardest decision I have to make on a daily basis is what to eat for dinner. Joya, my hardest question, because there's no framework for that. Um, so that's, that's probably my hardest decision. I think everything else is good.

Joya:

I can take decision-making out of my lunches and dinners by making Matt cook.

Meghna:

Brilliant. See, that's a decision I should have made 15 years ago of marrying a cook. That was not a well thought through decision.

Joya:

That if anyone wants to work with you or get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do. I'm going to put it in the banner here.

Meghna:

Uh , you can find me on LinkedIn , uh, and , uh , hit me up on LinkedIn and we can connect. Okay .

Joya:

Okay. So find Meghna on LinkedIn. And for me, you can always find me @joyadass on Instagram, as well. As on LinkedIn, I have a public speaking masterclass that's coming up. The next cohort is September 29th. And there's one spot open. If you would like to be a part of that, I would love to have you. And that concludes this episode of Drink Like a Lady, which is designed to get you as a female leader, a seat at the bar and a seat in the boardroom. Meghna, Thank you. You're fantastic. As a co-host we'll see you soon.

Meghna:

Thank you so much.