The UK general election has got me thinking about how we make decisions. (Don't worry this won't get political) As managers, leaders or business owners we have to make critical decisions daily, and it's not easy. Making decisions inevitably involves some amount of prediction into the future, essentially guesswork. We get a feeling that someone will be good or bad in a job role, we think that a business will be a good partner and we hope we can trust a new client. We use the facts we have to hand along with a lot of experience and intuition to lead us to the right decision. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong. None of us are fortune tellers and often we have incomplete information, it is no wonder making decisions is hard!
Big decisions are often too complex for our simple brains to handle. Looking at the election example, you need to choose someone who will stabilise the economy, create jobs, secure the future of the health service and manage global international relations. Deciding who is up to the job is very difficult. It takes a deep knowledge of global economic markets, study into budget figures, analysis of current and past events and local business markets to name a few! In short, it's really, really hard.
So what do we do? We make it easier for ourselves. We create associations between questions that are easier to answer and those really difficult questions. For example I may not be able to answer whether that party leader has the negotiation skills required to manage President Putin, but I can answer the question, do I find him charismatic? If he is charismatic then my brain makes the link that he must also be good at negotiating. Other questions we may unwittingly answer instead include, does he/she look good? Would I like to socialise with them? Do they have a similar background to me? Does he/she sound confident?
Body language plays a key part in our decision to trust a politician or not. Sweating, poor eye contact, nervous shifting of the body will all reduce our confidence in a candidate and give us an indication that 'something isn't right about them.' Which makes the televised UK election debates so important.
Your brain adds all this up and comes to the conclusion that the person who has composed body language, looks the part, is confident and charismatic will be a good leader for the country. Unfortunately, the people who have these characteristics may not be the best people to be leading a country. So when election days comes try to catch out your brain and the simplistic ways it jumps to conclusions, just because you would like to hang out with him, doesn't mean he would be a good leader.