Where good decisions come from (with Adelina Chalmers)

Adelina is an incredible, generous connector.

She has worked with thousands of people over the past 15 years to promote, implement and develop a culture of collaborative communication teams or people in the same team, especially on the tech side.

In our world that relies on tech to run, there are some tough decisions involved in doing things right.

I was really happy when Adelina accepted my invitation because she knows a lot about a thorny issue: where good decisions come from.

adelina chalmers how do you know episode 7 featured

To paint a more accurate picture, Adelina’s experience includes placing herself into highly complex situations where she helped move things along by making communication clearer, unhindered and more effective.

She has helped startups that came out of Cambridge University to pitch their ideas and get funding from VCs or angel investors because she loves technical people. One of the reasons behind it is that “they are very clear and you always know where you stand with them”.

(If you’re interested in finding out more about this, you can go to the University of Cambridge Enterprise website and see how they aim to transform lab research into a business.)

Before officially becoming The Geek Whisperer® and before her work with Cambridge University, Adelina worked for 9 years in human rights. Her passion for making people’s lives easier and her background of being supportive of people who couldn’t defend themselves pointed her towards this direction.

Adelina more of that story when talking about her outlook on life.

“The rock bottom was the foundation of my success”

Adelina was born in Romania when communism was in full swing. When she was 6, she already knew (and told her mother) that she wanted to leave the country. Communism may have “officially” ended in 1990, but its consequences continue to live long after that.

That’s why, when she was 21, Adelina left Romania and went to the UK to pick raspberries with nothing but 80 pounds in her pocket and no one she could rely on.

Britain felt like home because of the environment and the like-minded people she met and worked with. She had never felt at home in Romania, where she never fit it.

Adelina started studying law and, one day met a 65-year old woman who introduced her to one of her friends. Because she spoke 4 languages, Adelina was offered a job to help recruit developers, only 3 months after she’d come to the UK.

Not only did today’s guest collaborate with huge brands as a result, but she became an advisor for the UK Equality Act and worked with government, policies, and charity.

But working with the government could not give her the chance to make as big of a change as she wanted.

Corporations have a bigger impact on people’s lives that government does.

Adelina believes, so that’s why she chose the path she’s currently on.

3 things you can do to gain better understanding

Getting to specifics, Adelina mentions 3 things she tried to do every day to get clarity, grow and support others:

  1. Speak to someone new to find out about them and explore new possibilities.
  2. Help someone selflessly.
  3. Spend time to think about what she learned from a particular experience so she can improve.

There is one key question that Adelina champions as crucial to making better choices:

What do you want?

Most people cannot answer this in an articulate manner, which complicates things. Before you go to a particular meeting, conversation or situation, clarify:

What do you want people to do? Make it specific and measurable and you will notice the difference.

We managed to touch on a lot of different angles of how we make choices and how we evaluate their outcomes. One of them was how teams and leaders make decisions and how we handle feedback.

Leaders think they should have all the answers – this is a mistake. One mind will never be better than several.

When trying to move things along, to get unstuck in our overly complicated lives where so many things depend on each other, Adelina points out that:

Leaders do not explain in clear terms what problem they are trying to solve and what limitations that problem has.

This leads to confusion, wasted time and energy. Clarity is something we naturally seek, because of the way we’re wired.

As humans, we cannot stand uncertainty so we might rush to make decisions just to get clarity, but that might lead us to make poor decisions. That’s why I found it interesting to discover that the UK gives people who get a car or simply a mobile subscription a 14-day cooling off period to give them a chance to evaluate if they made the right decision for their means or not.

How often do you stop to do this? I bet it’s not as often as you’d wish (and that makes two of us).

Do you have to decide right now?

An important point Adelina made during our talk is an undervalued question we fail to use to better understand our context.

Do you have to decide right now?

The best time to make decisions is when you’ve had a chance to logically and objectively evaluate the choice.

[If you’re interested in more questions about decision-making, I’ve made a comprehensive list of them in this special post.]

If you’re under pressure, as we often are, especially at work, we could benefit from trying to understand where that pressure comes from. The next actionable step is to ask ourselves:

What’s the smallest thing I can do to help other people/myself manage this pressure?

As a communication specialist, I’ve dealt with the pressure that comes from negative feedback received from customers (or just one user). The source becomes clear when we pause to analyze it:

Humans get a biological fight, flight or freeze reaction to negative feedback because we’re all wired to seek acceptance.

When you’re in either of these states, you cannot make logical decisions.

What’s more:

People are scared to explore where the bad feedback is coming from.

But, as Adelina highlights, bad feedback is an opportunity for change if we evaluate it from a place of curiosity.

The takeaway is this: if you’re under pressure, try to take a step back and pinpoint its source. Check in with yourself to see if you’re in the right state of mind and then act on it.

Also, don’t be scared to dig into negative feedback and know it doesn’t define you. How you react to it, however, is something more powerful you control and can use to improve your decisions.

“I love sharing without a hidden agenda”

Talking about challenges and writing about them are an essential part of the process I often use to better understand my context and choose how to act. There are many of us who do the same online (and IRL), but what makes Adina special is that she’s on a constant exploration mission with no goal in mind other than to learn and be generous with what her knowledge and skills.

And she’s been practicing what she preaches even during her most challenging times. Adelina battled depression for 4 years and when you listen to the podcast you’ll see how the ways she sees this incredibly difficult experience differs a lot from what you’d expect.

I don’t regret anything because it’s taught me to become who I am today.

To wrap up the episode, Adina shares a simple and powerful reminder we all need:

I wish more people became aware of what they’re capable of.

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Thank you for listening!

How giving freely can create opportunities (with Kevan Lee)

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