In the Blink of an Eye
On a Friday afternoon, the candidate I’d been working with told me he felt 90% sure he would accept the offer as Marketing Director. He promised to re-confirm his decision on Monday but first wanted to speak to his wife and let the “dust settle” over the weekend.I passed on the good news to the HR Director but the candidate’s delay raised concerns about his decision-making ability. She mentioned that as a Marketing Director (he was currently a Manager) he needed to be able to make quick decisions based on only a minimum amount of information.
Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink describes how some of our best decisions are made in an instant. Our intuition and gut reaction, says Gladwell, is often a clear indicator of the best course of action we should take.
On the following Monday morning, the candidate e-mailed me thanking me for my efforts but would not accept the offer.
He said the 20% salary increase was generous, considered the senior directors at the company to be impressive and great to work with, and felt it would be wonderful to be working on the launch of a product, which would offer the patients of Japan greater choices in preventive medicine.
But he told me, without details, he wanted to stay in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) market. Was this the same excited candidate I spoke to on Friday? What had happened?
Clearly, fear had raised its ugly head. After reading his e-mail I phoned him and organized a meeting at a Starbucks near his office.
We sat and spoke of the pros and cons of the new position and it became abundantly clear the positives for taking up the new position far outweighed the negatives. So what was really preventing him from taking such a positive new career direction?
After some gentle prodding, he revealed the problem. He was still haunted by the memories of a former, power-crazed boss, who had micro-managed all his decisions and had severely damaged his confidence.
Was this the same guy who dazzled the President and beat a list of impressive candidates? Was the HR Director’s instincts right? Was the candidate flawed?
After 40 minutes of logical conversation, of measuring the plusses against the minuses, and hearing again, of the career goals he envisioned while completing his MBA, I asked a simple question: “What does your heart tell you to do?”
He winced and admitted his heart urged him to join the new company. He excused himself to call his wife and when he sat back down the man I had met on the previous Friday had returned. He would join the company and walked confidently away to his office to resign.
FEAR can mean False Evidence Appearing Real and we are all victims of this natural human condition. Fear can make us over analyze situations and baulk at decisions that we know, deep down, are right for us.
Negative experiences from our yesterdays and an uncertainty about the future can combine to create a negative mindset, which smashes our confidence and shackles us to the past.
This irrational fear can cover up and overpower our initial instinctive feeling, which is rarely ever wrong. And the right decision, most often, occurs in the blink of an eye.
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