The Power of Choice

We recently had the opportunity to spend some time with my wife’s 96 year old grandmother. Grandma Alice lives in a nursing home south of the Twin Cites in Minnesota. By nursing home standards, this place is a palace, with nice facilities and even nicer staff.

At meal times the residents are now given a menu, allowing them to choose between a couple different entrees. A cute elderly lady at Grandma’s table made a wise observation at dinner: “The food seems to taste better when you have a choice.”

Let’s face it: nursing home food doesn’t typically have the reputation of Wolfgang Puck! But, given a choice, somehow the food tastes better.

There are times when leaders need to send their teams down a path as exciting as meatloaf surprise. When you are about to inflict change on a person, a team, or even a boss, see if you can employ some nursing wisdom on choices.

Can you offer them a choice? Or can you show how there were some choices, and the one being selected is the best path, all things considered?

The wisdom of choices can be seen when managing up as well. I know an executive who coaches his teams to “Never say ‘No.’ Say, ‘Yes, but….'”. Personally I think that’s a little cheesy. I prefer what another executive told me: “I don’t say ‘No.’ I say ‘Choose.'”

Her point is that instead of being the “No Person”, she brings options. I suggest you also bring a recommendation. Bringing choices shows your boss that you have thought it through and are taking responsibility.

The result might be as exciting as macaroni hot dish. But bringing choices might make it all more palatable.

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