The Leadership Trap of Extremes & How to Conquer It

Leadership Trap of Extremes

I just spent five hours in my grocery store’s cereal aisle trying to make a decision. Like a surreal Salvador Dali painting, the aisle went on forever. I was tempted by the multitude of colorful boxes and the deliciously unhealthy sugar-memories of my youth — Lucky Charms, Coca Puffs, Apple Jacks! Five hours later, I was somewhere near the middle of the aisle with a cartful of cereal boxes I didn’t need, having long forgotten, or just stopped caring about, the original cereal I did need.

Has this ever happened to you? (And I don’t mean spending eternity trapped in the cereal aisle trying to make up your mind.) I’m talking about suffering from the decision-making trap of extremes — you give yourself, your team, or your business too many choices to decide from. And end up making a bad decision, or worse, NO decision at all, while your leadership, performance, and business suffers.

As a leadership keynote speaker, I often speak to successful professionals and teach them how to make better decisions — better decisions that help them to be better servant leaders at work, home, and in their community. I recently spoke to an amazing association who’s mission I am incredibly passionate about — The Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA). During my talk, I shared with the HBA the decision-making trap of extremes. And more importantly, how to conquer it. The solution is called the “3 x 15 Rule” and it works like this:

We have to limit our choices to three. The mind is not built to handle more than three pieces of information at once — when you introduce a fourth choice, it pushes out one of the original three from your mind. And so on. So to help you avoid and conquer this trap, let’s apply the action steps below to learn the 3 x 15 Rule, make better decisions, and grow as responsible servant leaders:

30-Seconds of EXTREME Action

Step 1. Post “The Rule of 3” where you can easily see it: “One choice is not a choice. Two is just a dilemma (either this or that). You need three choices to truly have choice.”

Step 2. Set a 15-minute timer to help you make decisions. You don’t need 15-minutes all the time — sometimes you need a lot less and sometimes you need more. However, the simple act of setting a timer (my team and I use the Alexa dot in our office) will powerfully and responsibly pull you forward to make a decision in a timely manner.

Step 3. Apply the 3 x 15 Rule (3 choices & 15-minute timer) on a decision you have been holding off making for a few days. Brainstorm, ask for help from colleagues, do whatever you need to do to come up with three good choices to that stalled decision. Set a 15-minute timer (or whatever amount of time works for you) and get into relevant action to move that stuck decision forward. Now!

Try these three action steps to grow and develop your decision-making muscle and watch your leadership and life results soar. Otherwise, you risk spending eternity stuck in the proverbial cereal aisle of poor leadership and bad decision-making.

If you have questions, comments, or other innovative ways to avoid and conquer the decision-making trap of extremes, leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter @mpveltri. I’d love to hear from you.

From life or death decisions on the battlefield to the boardroom, Michael Veltri draws on his background as a battle-hardened business executive, decorated U.S. Marine veteran, and 10-year resident of Japan to teach CEOs and senior executives better decision-making skills that deliver stunning results. Michael is also a cancer survivor and is passionate about speaking to leaders in the healthcare industry. His inspiring leadership keynote speeches and breakout sessions deliver practical tools that can be used immediately to increase productivity, drive better patient outcomes, and deliver bottom-line results while creating a culture of servant leadership at every level. Learn more at: