We live in a world where the need for instant gratification is all around us. The need to get that boost of dopamine seems to drive so many of our actions and decisions.
After reading Simon Sinek’s new book, The Infinite Game, it got me thinking about how often we make decisions with a short-term perspective vs. taking a long-term view and considering how what we do today impacts the future.
A sporting game has a finite time period and ends with a declared winner. Business is an infinite game, and there is no defined end to the operations. CEOs and other leaders will come and go, but the business will go on. However, many business decisions are made with a short-term mindset. Shareholders and market pressures may create an environment where looking good on paper for the quarter or year are more important than considering the long-term impacts of those decisions.
Short-term decision making takes a toll on people. For example, those decisions:
- Create unintended consequences. Many of which require re-work and a longing for a “do-over.”
- Cause confusion of priorities and focus. People are unsure about where to focus attention. When one quarter is all about driving sales and next quarter’s focus is cutting costs, it’s like working on a roller coaster. Employees get frustrated, their work loses meaning, and they disengage.
- Create a scarcity mentality. Only a few will be successful, and there is not enough room for others to enjoy success. People operate out of fear and may “do whatever it takes” to win. Those “whatevers” often leave a trail of destruction in its wake.
Are you making decisions that demonstrate you are in it for the long game? Take a quick self-assessment:
- Am I thinking about the long-term consequences of my decisions?
- Considering the future state:
- Do people have more opportunities or less?
- How might competitors respond?
- What are the possible unintended consequences? What precedent are you setting?
- Considering the future state:
- Am I willing to be courageous and take some heat for making investments now for future payoffs?
- Making decisions that support financial health in the infinite game of business is much like physical health in life. It’s impossible to measure in daily steps. It is a steady buildup that, in time, yields dramatic results.
- Am I creating a safe space and encouraging others to make decisions with a long-term perspective?
- Remaining open to new ideas that challenge convention and seek to understand the rationale for approaches that may initially appear to be counter-intuitive.
Many examples prove that leaders who prioritize people over numbers enjoy long-term success. The foundation of that success is TRUST. Leaders build trust by doing the right thing, especially when they aren’t forced to. When you go through life with an Infinite Game point of view, you can lift up and look at the big picture. You can leave a legacy by making your world better than how you found it.
“In any game, we get two choices. Though we do not get to choose the rules of the game, we do get to choose if we want to play, and we get to choose HOW we want to play.” –Simon Sinek
Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Connect with her on Twitter @mduesterhoft and share how you’re playing the game!