We recently asked Adam Smith, the co-host of The Turnaround Mindset podcast (with Phil Slade), to share his thoughts on better decision making.

Adam has over 20 years of experience in working as a senior strategic advisor to Government and the private sectors in the definition, planning, procurement and delivery of complex infrastructure projects.  Adam has an extensive background in helping successfully implement and operationalise lasting change within organisations helping to transform and turnaround underperforming business units and unprofitable projects.

Adam has worked across a broad range of sectors delivering programs in health, mining, transport, social infrastructure, telco, power, construction and manufacturing. Developing the right governance frameworks and operational controls, Adam has helped steer and coach leadership teams through critical moments in their project and business lifecycle that ensures long term sustainability. Working openly with Executive teams, Adam helps to create and shape the right transition plans and strategies necessary for new projects to seamlessly transition to business as usual.

Adam’s collaborative leadership style ensures clear, accurate communication of the project vision empowering management and their teams to initiate the actions needed to improve performance. Adam has an extensive background in planning and business case development, financial and risk management, contingency assessment and asset and facilities management. 

An accomplished facilitator and negotiator, Adam can communicate complex concepts in a simple, structured way to internal and external stakeholders at all levels.

What is your favourite, or most used, inspirational quote?

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value” – Albert Einstein

What does great decision making look and feel like for you?

For me, making good decisions is a method that must be learned. It is not something with which we are all innately born, but merely a step by step process that develops from our own life experience.

Great decision making occurs when it is made deliberately and thoughtfully, is consistent with my beliefs and values, considers all the relevant factors and is more focussed on what is right rather than what is acceptable. Most importantly, for me great decision-making means recognising what is the action I have to take in following through with the decision and being able to explain clearly my reasoning for the decision with those impacted.

And how does good decision making feel? For me it feels clear, focussed, confident and intuitive.

When was a time you were at your decision making best?

When I was appointed to lead a business turnaround on behalf of the NSW Government. Every key decision made impacted the workforce (over 1,000 employees) and faced constant justification and scrutiny from Government officials, journalists, and Leadership Committee members.

In these types of environments, you really need to know where a decision has to be based on principle and when it should be made pragmatically on the merits of the case. Each decision made in this type of leadership role was more about impact rather than technique and really understanding the underlying realities of what the decision was trying to satisfy. It’s also about acknowledging that the most time consuming part is not making the decision but putting it into effect across a business.

Who inspires you? Why?

It would be a pretty even split between Winston Churchill and Jim Rohn. One of my favourite quotes from Churchill is “success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” I have always been inspired by Churchill’s bravery and tenacity to keep going and to have courage in your convictions as a leader.

Jim Rohn opened my mind to entrepreneurship and financial independence as well as the importance of personal development in living an amazing life. Another quote he said was “If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”

These two leaders have shaped so many of my decisions in life and kept me accountable for my actions and outcomes.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to be a better decision maker?

Back Yourself! The important thing to know about being a great decision maker is not to second guess your decisions. Remember to breathe, listen to your intuition, and try to remove as much emotion from the situation as possible. 

What are you reading/watching at the moment?

I’m currently reading from Good to Great by Jim Collins – what a fantastic book!

I’m also watching the short series – The Undoing on Binge TV. I think it’s more about the fact that my wife still really likes Hugh Grant.

What is the most effective strategy you use for keeping your Ape (your emotional reactive state) in check?

Breathing. When I am in an emotional state and my ape is about to go off, if I Stop, give myself a timeout and just breathe it really helps to centre my thinking and avoid a bad decision. Deep breathing has always helped me to calm down, gather my thoughts, recognise how much my ego is involved and rationalise the way forward.

What type of decision maker are you?

Activist Groupie

For more from Adam check out The Turnaround Mindset podcast, with co-hosts Adam Smith and Phil Slade, anywhere you stream podcasts.

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