“Decision making is an art only until the person understands the science.”
―Pearl Zhu, Decision Master: The Art and Science of Decision Making

The average adult makes about 35,000 conscious decisions daily (Sahakian & LaBuzetta, 2013). Considering the amount of time we spend on this, have you ever stopped to think how you could be more effective at making conscious decisions? Even the time of day we make a decision can affect the outcome. So, what is the best time and moment to make important decisions?
Let’s consider an excerpt from a study published in 2011, on how the time of day influences our decision-making ability.

Decision Making and Time of Day


“Three men doing time in Israeli prisons recently appeared before a parole board consisting of a judge, a criminologist and a social worker. The three prisoners had completed at least two-thirds of their sentences, but the parole board granted freedom to only one of them. Guess which one:

    • Case 1 (heard at 8:50 a.m.): An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud.
    • Case 2 (heard at 3:10 p.m.): A Jewish Israeli serving a 16-month sentence for assault.
    • Case 3 (heard at 4:25 p.m.): An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud.

There was a pattern to the parole board’s decisions, but it wasn’t related to the men’s ethnic backgrounds, crimes or sentences. It was all about timing, as researchers discovered by analyzing more than 1,100 decisions over the course of a year. Judges, who would hear the prisoners’ appeals and then get advice from the other members of the board, approved parole in about a third of the cases, but the probability of being paroled fluctuated wildly throughout the day. Prisoners who appeared early in the morning received parole about 70 percent of the time, while those who appeared late in the day were paroled less than 10 percent of the time.

The odds favored the prisoner who appeared at 8:50 a.m. — and he did in fact receive parole. But even though the other Arab Israeli prisoner was serving the same sentence for the same crime — fraud — the odds were against him when he appeared (on a different day) at 4:25 in the afternoon. He was denied parole, as was the Jewish Israeli prisoner at 3:10 p.m, whose sentence was shorter than that of the man who was released. They were just asking for parole at the wrong time of day.”


Making Effective Conscious Decisions

Our decisions are influenced by external circumstances and the effect these have on us personally.
Making Effective Conscious Decisions
The time of the day is a big one! How rested or tired, how hungry, stressed and/or rushed we are at that time, among other things, are crucial conditions to keep in mind when wanting to make more effective decisions.
Here are my main takeaways about making effective conscious decisions based on different cases, studies, and science:

  • The mental work we do over the course of a day wears down people’s decision-making capacity.
  • As our energy is depleted, the brain will look for shortcuts. One shortcut is to make more impulsive decisions, the other is to postpone decisions. Which do you think is the more effective route?
  • These experiments demonstrated that there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control. That’s why it’s harder to resist temptations at the end of the day.
  • Part of the resistance against making decisions comes from our fear of giving up options. The word “decide” shares an etymological root with “homicide,” the Latin word “caedere,” meaning “to cut down” or “to kill,” and that loss looms especially large when decision fatigue sets in.
  • Once you’re mentally depleted, you become reluctant to make trade-offs, which involve a particularly advanced and taxing form of decision-making.
  • Glucose level influences decision-making. Do not make decisions on an empty stomach.

So, what does this all mean for making effective conscious decisions? We may not always be able to control the external factors influencing us, but by being aware of them, we can choose to postpone important decisions or take care of ourselves in a better way to make them more effective.

If you would like to know more about effective decision making, meetings, and commitments, check out my webinar, Making things happen: improving the way we make decisions.

Sources used in this article: Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? and “Extraneous factors in judicial decisions” by Shai Danziger, Jonathan Levav, and Liora Avnaim-Pesso

There are a lot of articles out there aimed at helping us navigate the “new normal” of working from home and the challenges that come with it. However, most of these articles seem to focus solely on the technicalities of managing this new situation. How do you keep a schedule and maintain a routine? How can you make sure you have a comfortable workspace at home?  There seems to be very little out there about creating real connection in virtual meetings. And that might be the thing we are missing the most about in-person workplaces.
It can be easy to think that having an effective meeting relies simply on a strong agenda or a timekeeper. However, it is the more subtle relationship interactions that help foster strong team dynamic, collaboration and performance.
Creating Real Connection in Virtual Meetings: woman at her computer

Creating Real Connection in Virtual Meetings

How do you begin your meetings? Do you check in first, or do you jump right in? If you jump right in, then how do you know everyone is aligned with the purpose of the meeting and fully present? Could it be that some people are distracted from other meetings or with other concerns? How do you ensure everyone can fully contribute?
Given that we are working virtually, it can be easy to miss the physical cues you may otherwise perceive if you were sitting in a meeting room or would have gathered from the few minutes prior to the meeting starting. It can be easier to misinterpret situations in a virtual context than when you have all the data of an in-person interaction.

Checking in with the Three C’s

Beginning each meeting with a check-in allows you and your colleagues to become fully present and openly share intentions and concerns for the meeting. The questions shared below are an ideal way to ensure you capture connection and context, not just the content (or agenda) of the meeting.

  1. How do I feel arriving at this meeting?  (Connection) Take the time to connect on a personal level before moving on to the next question. As team members are juggling many different challenges, this is an opportunity to foster connection and understanding within the team.
  2. What circumstances make this meeting relevant and important to me and the team?  (Context)
  3. What results do I hope to obtain by the end of the meeting? Why are these results important?  (Content)
  4. Do I have any concerns that will prevent me from being “present” in the meeting?  (Context)

A modified set of questions can be used to “check-out” upon closing the meeting, so that all participants feel heard. It provides a space for each person to express how they felt about the outcomes of the meeting and share any concerns or issues that may not have been addressed. This concludes the current meeting and sets up future meetings with a strength of connection helping to build a strong team culture.
In addition, it is important, particularly in a virtual context, to continue to check in with participants during the meeting inviting them back in to contribute and be active.  Again, as you are not privy to the usual non-verbal cues, you may miss a person disengaging or becoming discontent.


There are many challenges to remote working, but as many companies continue to work in this way and consider a blended approach going forward, issues such as collaboration and team connection become even more important. Fostering connectivity and making sure all voices are heard is an important way to support your team as they navigate this new way of working.
If you would like to know more about how Axialent can support your team with a free check in exercise, please click here.

It’s a fact of business life. We spend most of our time in meetings. And from what most people tell me, meetings are not the highlight of their day. Too much time spent in conversations that seem to go on without end and only a few people dominating the discussions. Topics don’t get closure because discussions go off-topic, go on tangents, go down rabbit holes and swirl to no end. And some meetings end with no clear sense of purpose or what’s next. And then there’s the inevitable meeting after the meeting to discuss the meeting. At this point, people’s energy is low. Some may feel a palpable frustration and compelled to give voice to their thoughts, “This meeting is a waste of time!” But they say nothing because you are the boss and this is your meeting. If this sounds or feels familiar, then the question becomes how can you make the most of these less than satisfying meetings you and your teams have come to live with?
With each new day comes the need for people to get more done in less time and meetings play a significant role in fulfilling this need. But to do this, we would need to change the way we have meetings. So ask yourself, what if you could stop the “swirling” i.e., conversations that go on without end? What if you could drill down to what really matters more quickly? What if you could get buy-in more efficiently and align with one another more quickly? What if you could open and close topics, build consensus, and drive decision making more effectively? And perhaps most important, what if you could garner effective agreements from others while motivating everyone to follow through with commitment? What if meetings could leave you and everyone else feeling energized, focused, clear and ready to face the challenges that lay ahead? This is the goal of conscious meeting facilitation.
Conscious meeting facilitation transforms the meeting experience into one of achievement and motivation. But what exactly does “conscious” meeting facilitation mean? It means operating with a heightened awareness for mindsets and behaviors that impact a meeting’s outcomes. In fact, conscious meeting facilitation begins by establishing the right mindsets which in turn inform behaviors that result in more effective meetings. Conscious meeting facilitation helps people remain aware of their choices to adhere to these mindsets and behaviors.
Establishing Clear Mindsets, and Behavioral Expectations
In a book entitled “The Skilled Facilitator”, author Roger Schwarz proposes using a Mutual Learning model to inform the mindsets and behaviors of meeting participants. These mindsets and behaviors create the conditions for transparency, understanding, skillful advocacy, skillful inquiry and collaborative solution building.

The Mutual Learning model proports the need for participants to be operating from a common pool of information, to understand and respect different perspectives, and to clarify how decision making will occur prior to making actual decisions. The Mutual Learning mindset proposed by Schwarz has five core values: Transparency, curiosity, informed choice, accountability and compassion. These values, in turn, produce effective behaviors that are held in place via conscious meeting facilitation. These behaviors include, stating views and asking genuine questions, sharing all relevant information, explaining rational and intent, focusing on interests not positions, testing assumptions and inferences, and jointly designing next steps.
Conscious meeting facilitation establishes these values and behavior norms as expectations to be held by participants of one another. They are presented as ground rules to be accepted by participants. Once accepted, the meeting environment becomes a level playing field for ideas, perspectives, beliefs, and possibilities and the facilitator supports the participant’s adherence to these ground rules.
Ultimately, conscious meeting facilitation means that every aspect of the meeting’s design and preparation, as well as its facilitation, is conducted from a place of awareness of multiple dimensions from the physical to the cognitive to the emotional, all to produce a specific desired business outcome. Let’s take a look at each of these dimensions.
The Five Dimensions of a Healthy and Effective Meeting Experience
Conscious meeting facilitation is based on managing what can be called the 5 dimensions of a healthy meeting experience:

  1. Physical Comfort
  2. Time and Traffic Control
  3. Cognitive Focus
  4. Emotions Management
  5. Business Outcomes


  1. Physical Comfort

Human beings need to be in a position of physical comfort in order to relax their concerns and focus their attention. This means not only having a comfortable place to sit, a chair that supports your body and back, but also a meeting rhythm that parallels your body’s natural rhythms and needs for circulation, nutrition and heeding the call of nature. Great meetings allow for comfortable seating, but also for movement, regular breaks, and the right kind of fuel for focused concentration.

  1. Time and Traffic Control

Second only to physical comfort, the management of time and people’s interaction is fundamental to making meetings run more efficiently. Who speaks when? How long is too long? How much time does a topic or task need? How do you make sure everyone’s voice is heard? These are questions addressed by well-facilitated time and traffic control.

  1. Cognitive Focus

Dimensions one and two take care of the basics of meeting facilitation and by themselves can make any meeting better. However, to really take effectiveness to new heights it is necessary to manage the attention people give to discussions and keep their mindsets on track so as to focus on one’s ability to respond while staying open and curious. Know-it-alls and victims kill productivity.

  1. Emotions Management

Just like the cognitive focus of people and groups can be managed by a skillful facilitator, so can the emotions of participants. Emotions are our visceral reactions to the topics being discussed, the way they are being discussed, the environment within which they are being discussed and the individual’s reflection on how these factors measure up to their standards for what’s valuable time spent. Skillful facilitation constantly monitors the emotional state of participants and knows when and how to intervene to keep emotions healthy and in support of meeting goals.

  1. Business Outcomes

Finally, meetings are only as good as the business outcomes they produce. Skilled facilitators know how to keep meetings focused on the desired business outcomes. They understand how to manage the relationships between complex concepts without having to know all the details. They are able to keep conversations on business track, always keeping the greater business objectives in mind.
Meeting Modes
Most meetings, regardless of their appearance, really only have three purposes; to inform, to discuss, to decide.

Once we understand the purpose and desired outcome of each mode, a facilitator can more effectively manage interaction towards a meaningful outcome. Let’s take a look at each of the three meeting modes.

  1. To Inform

The purpose of this mode is to share information with others. Plain and simple, it is about relaying information, knowledge and/or concepts to participants for the sake of making them aware of the information. In this mode, what matters most is to make sure that all participants clearly understand what they are being informed of.

  1. To Discuss

The purpose of this meeting mode is to share and debate perspectives and to build on one another’s ideas. For this mode, it’s important to make sure that each of the participants have had an equal chance to have their voice and beliefs heard.

  1. To Decide

After people have been informed, and all the pertinent discussions have been had, there often comes a time when a decision needs to be taken during the meeting. The role of conscious meeting facilitation is to make sure that participants are consciously adhering to a decision-making method or model, decided upon before the decision is to be taken.
It may seem like a lot of knowledge and skill is required, but today’s increasingly complex business environments and challenges need a new type of meeting discipline to keep up with the pace and demands made by both.