Business, Community & Government

Making Informed Decisions

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Lesson time 16:03 min

Doris shares how some of the greatest presidents have made consequential decisions and how we can use their approach in our own lives. She also talks about how to heal divisions and build consensus.

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Topics include: Make the Best Decision You Can With the Information You Have · Depend on Your Team · Listen to Your Team, but Make the Final Decision · Heal Divisions, Build Consensus · Be Aware of Public Opinion · Shift Public Sentiment With Bold Decisions


[CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYING] - One of the reasons why I think it's so useful and easy to study presidential decisions is because the context of the decision is already written about by historians. If you were to just pick a decision of something in some time that you wanted to know about, you might have to do tons of research to even understand what the struggle was about. But because these big decisions that I've been trying to deal with are central decisions in the history of our country, you've got a whole series of the best historians writing about them-- I can read what they've said. You've got the primary documents to read about. You can see the memos, you can see the newspaper stories, and you can recreate what it was like to live in that time that the decision was being made because it's so important to understand context. So you can use these decisions, even though they're big, macro decisions, in a micro way because whatever decision you're making will always have pieces of what you need-- gathering information, figuring out the pros and cons, anticipating which way it will go and what the consequences will be, and trying to figure out what the best possible solution is for people on all sides of the issue. These things can all be put into your own personal life, even though they're on a big basis, because you can read about them and you can learn about them. [CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYING] One of the things that FDR was able to do was to say, I don't have an expectation that I'm going to get a hit every time I get up to bat. Indeed, if you're a 300 hitter in baseball, you're an all-star. And that means, only 3 out of 10 times you were able to get a hit. So he said, what I say to myself is, what I'm looking for is the best batting average possible for me and for the entire team. And he passed that on to the people who worked for him-- Frances Perkins, who was his Secretary of Labor, said she'd go in to talk to him when something difficult was going on when she had to make an important decision about the Labor Department. And somehow he just persuaded her that you just have to make the decision, you have to go with what you think is best. If it doesn't work out, you can change it later. If you're going too many times back and forth-- here's the pros, here's the cons-- you're going to not be able to act. Just have the confidence that as long as you've got a team that's provided you with the best information and you know you have only a limited time to make the decision, you're doing the best that's humanly possible. And then if it doesn't work, then you have to have confidence you can change it as long as you have that mindset. So all the people in his cabinet say, just go for the highest batting average possible. Don't think you have to hit 1,000 or you'll never make a decision. [CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYING] You have to depend on the team that you've put around you, that they are tasked with gathering information to tell y...

About the Instructor

For more than 50 years, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has studied great American presidents. Now the Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you leadership through the lens of U.S. presidential history. With timeless stories of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ, Doris shares practical wisdom and a template for honing leadership skills. Manage a crisis, craft a message, and guide a team like extraordinary leaders of the past.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin teaches you how to develop the leadership qualities of exceptional American presidents.

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