Sunday, March 13, 2016

Zone of Indifference

Some months back, I sat with colleagues to work through a checklist of five or six issues we needed to discuss.  We hoped our collective input would help us find good solutions for all of us.  With each problem, we discussed various approaches, studied the pros and cons, and did our typical predicting and professing.

At one point, thinking we'd come to a viable solution to a particular problem, I turned to one of my colleagues.  He'd been quiet throughout our discussion. "What do you think?"

"I'm happy to implement whatever the group decides is best." he said.  "Frankly, this one is firmly in my zone of indifference."

Zone of indifference.

I'd never heard that term before, but it made a lot of sense to me.  I liked the idea of "zones" representing how much passion and energy we bring to particular situations.  In his zone of indifference,' it wasn't that my colleague didn't care; he wasn't dismissing our conversation and removing himself from it.  Instead, he knew he would be satisfied with whatever solution we landed upon, and he'd happily go along with it as a member of our team.

In thinking of my own zone of indifference these past weeks, I have found that I also have a zone of significance, a zone of comfort, a zone of responsiveness, a zone of opposition, and so on.  We can put any name to it, really—but identifying zones is a neat way to identify how much we are affected by each decision and how much energy we want to commit to making it.

So here's how I've applied it to my work:   When faced with a problem, I think about what emotion I'm bringing to it and place it into a zone.  Am I indifferent?  Zone of indifference.  Do I care deeply about something and want to push for a certain outcome?  Zone of passion.  Am I angry because I can't see a viable solution?  Zone of frustration. And so on.

And then, within the zones, we can determine where we are and decide how to proceed.  We can gauge our feelings, find our zone, find our place in the zone, and go forth.

It's a really good trick for leaders, because we make thousands of decisions every day, and the feelings we bring to any given decision affects the outcome.  Identifying those feelings and then determining where we sit with them—in other words, what zone we're in, and where—can lead to some pretty sound decision-making.

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