Using Choice as Power: How to Get it Right

Choice is one of the great powers a leader possesses, yet if the leader does not know how to effectively use the power of choice, problems arise.
For example when there are not enough choices we experience dis-empowerment. When we have too many choices we procrastinate and experience overwhelm.

In No-Drama Leadership I talked about dialing up choice, and dialing down choice. Here’s quick example illustrating the power of dialing down choice.
On an airplane going from Detroit to Chicago, the pilot announced, “Because of our short flight there will be limited beverage service. You may have water, orange juice, or coffee.”
In a world where most of us are drowning in a sea of choice, knowing how to effectively dial down choice is a critical skill, which this pilot brilliantly displayed. He surely realized that there was not enough time available to give too many choices, however three choices helped people to feel that their needs were taken care of.

Dialing down choice is a good use of power when you want to

  • Speed up
  • Focus
  • Save time
  • Set boundaries for self or others
  • Minimize or eliminate decision making
  • Control the choices of others
  • Conserve brain energy

We often dial down choice without realizing it. For example, when you follow a Jenny Craig diet, you are dialing down choice via control in a box. You eat what’s on the menu and buy the food pre-packaged. Or, suppose you decide on a routine as suggested on Jen Reviews by creating routines and schedules as suggested in tip #2.. Dialing down choice frees up brain energy, saves time and can simplify your life.

Here are some examples:

  • Packing the same outfit for travel each week
  • Preparing a weekly menu
  • Creating a schedule or agenda
  • Building new routines

As a leader, you have to get the choice factor just right. The power of choice is like the porridge in Goldilocks’s story of The Three Bears: Papa Bear’s porridge was way too hot, Mama Bear’s porridge was way too cold, but Baby Bear’s porridge was just right.  Too much choice and we drown in indecisiveness, overwhelm and lack of structure. Too little choice and we suffer from boredom, dissatisfaction and dis-empowerment. Just the right amount of choice creates a sense of freedom, aliveness, and well-being.

When we take the judgment out of the idea of “choice” we can use the power of choice effectively by dialing it up or dialing it down.

Points to Ponder
1. Where can you dial up or dial down choice in your leadership role?
2. Where are you using or abusing the power of choice?

Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker, and the author of two books: “No-Drama Leadership: How Enlightened Leaders Transform Culture in the Workplace” (Bibliomotion 2015) and “Stop Workplace Drama” (Wiley 2011). Chism’s passion is developing wise leaders and helping people discover, develop and deliver their gifts to the world.