One of the most difficult decisions for any manager is deciding that something has gone as far as it should and that definitive action of some kind is now in order. In my Workshops, I refer to this as answering the “when is enough, enough” question. It is, of course, the managerial equivalent of the question all of us must occasionally answer in our private lives as well.
But how do we actually know when enough is enough? I believe the answer is that there comes a moment when we simply just know; moments of clear, comprehensible, if not yet fully coherent, awareness. But do we always act upon that awareness? No and modern neuroscience sheds much light on why.
It turns out that our emotional brain arrives at decision points considerably faster than our capacity for logical thinking about almost anything. Moreover, our emotional brain is able to draw upon the entire lifetime of our experiences and those patterns that predict likely outcomes to tell us what to do. This is how, I believe, we just know something in our “gut” so to speak.
Unfortunately, this is when our logical brain often takes over and we begin the process of searching for a logical, rational justification for an action. If the action we are contemplating is hard, emotionally difficult, or potentially costly to us in some way, we can always generate enough reasons to hold off for a while. Perhaps if we just keep trying harder, give it more time, it will go away.
I often have to remind myself that Albert Einstein provided us with one definition of insanity as “doing the same things again and again expecting different results” . The fact that we humans are capable of over-thinking things indefinitely is no excuse for doing so.
Answering the “when is enough, enough” question occasionally is a fundamental requirement for all successful managers. When we have had enough experience with something and know, sense, feel deep inside that it is time to act for the good of all concerned, then it is time to act. Putting action off beyond this point while we wait for logical certainty only increases the possibility that we will never act at all; and we all know from our own experience that if we try hard enough, we can eventually find a rational to justify doing just that — nothing at all.
The very best managers learn to trust their experience-based, inner instinct when it tells them enough is enough, even if their logical brain will need some time to catch up.