Episode 27: The D.E.C.I.D.E. Framework

This week I'm sharing how you can use my D.E.C.I.D.E. framework to support your clients in their decision-making and in your own life. I'm going to walk you through each one of the steps, how you can use the framework and I'm also sharing some personal examples.
Coach with Clarity Podcast Lee Chaix McDonough

27: The D.E.C.I.D.E. Framework

My D.E.C.I.D.E. Framework is the six-part framework that I use with my clients, and in my life, to help me make decisions that are grounded in my inner wisdom and aligned with the world around me.   When it comes down to it, one of our chief responsibilities as coaches is to support our clients in their decision-making process.

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Show Notes

My D.E.C.I.D.E. Framework is the six-part framework that I use with my clients, and in my life, to help me make decisions that are grounded in my inner wisdom and aligned with the world around me.

When it comes down to it, one of our chief responsibilities as coaches is to support our clients in their decision-making process. Whether that's deciding what they want to talk about in session or how they want to take action on a particular goal, we partner with them so that they feel confident and aligned in the decisions they're making for their business and for their lives.

In this episode, I'm going to walk you through each one of the steps, how you can use the framework and I'm also sharing some personal examples of what it looks like to put each step into practice and recommendations to help you make this framework effective.

Topics covered

  • Why being clear on how to make decisions is a fundamental coaching skill
  • How the D.E.C.I.D.E. Framework is different from other traditional systems
  • The six steps of the D.E.C.I.D.E. Framework for decision-making
  • The benefits of slowing down to define the question
  • Why connecting with your purpose and mission is an important decision-making step
  • What to consider if the issue to be decided doesn't feel aligned with your values and purpose
  • How I apply the D.E.C.I.D.E. Framework in my business
  • Creating an environment that welcomes our inner wisdom
  • My experience with focusing too much on the outcome
  • The power of taking aligned action

Resources mentioned

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Well, hello there, my friend. Thank you for joining me for another episode of the Coach with Clarity podcast. My name is Lee Chaix McDonough and today's topic is a juicy one. 

Personally, I think it's important for everyone, but it's especially important for coaches because it's at the heart of the work that we do with our clients. The subject we're gonna dive into today is making decisions. I'm going to walk you through my six-part framework that I use with my clients and in my own life, to help me make decisions that are grounded in my inner wisdom and aligned with whatever is going on in my day to day life and the world around me. 

I call it the D.E.C.I.D.E framework because it is a six step framework, and D.E.C.I.D.E is an acronym for each one of the steps. So I'm going to walk you through it in today's episode. I'm going to share some personal examples of what it looks like to put each step into practice, and I'll share some recommendations to help you make this framework effective with your clients and in your own life. 

Now, some of you know that Coach with Clarity is not my first podcast, and actually back in 2019, I launched the Work Your Inner Wisdom podcast – it was a lot of fun, it was all about the intersection between spirituality and entrepreneurship, and it taught me a lot about the art of podcasting. Ultimately, however, I decided to put that show into hiatus so that I could focus exclusively on what brings me joy, which is supporting other coaches as they build their coaching skills and their businesses. But if you are a listener of the work your inner wisdom podcast and you may recall the episode I did on the D.E.C.I.D.E framework. I went back and reviewed that episode as I was preparing to record today, and what I have found is that even though my business has grown significantly over the last year, even though I'm facing a lot of new challenges in my life, as many of us are, what with Coronavirus, moving school and business online, there are a lot of new challenges that we are facing as individuals and as a society, that we did not have to deal with one year ago. 

Yet, I find that this framework still holds up. It's still something I turn to on a regular basis as I'm making decisions, and so while I've created a few refinements for today's episode, all in all, this is a robust and timeless framework for helping you make decisions in your own life and one that you can use when you're guiding your clients through their decisions as well. Because in coaching when it comes right down to it, one of our chief responsibilities is to support our clients in their decision-making process. Whether it is deciding what they want to talk about in session, or how they want to take action on a particular goal, we are partnering with them so that they feel confident and aligned in the decisions they're making for their business and for their lives.

Making decisions is at the heart of what we do when we are working with clients to help them clarify their vision, their mission, and their values because we're asking them to decide, “What really matters most to you, and how do you want that to inform your purpose and the actions you're going to take?”. Decision making is at the heart part of creating solid strategic action plans so that once our clients are clear on where they're headed, we can work with them to create a timeline, and milestones, and all sorts of strategy that they can implement, but at each step of the way, they are deciding what they want to do and why it matters. 

So being clear on how to make decisions is a fundamental coaching skill, and that's why I'm so excited to walk you through my D.E.C.I.D.E framework today, because as coaches, one of the greatest gifts that we can offer our clients is the gift of structure. So that when they work with us, they know what to expect, they feel confident that they are going to emerge from the coaching relationship, ready to take action in their lives, and that starts with making good decisions. 

Part of the reason I developed the D.E.C.I.D.E framework was because I didn't see anything quite like it out there that created space both for my inner wisdom and external data. So some of the systems that I had used in the past were very much outward focused. One that comes to mind is a SWOT analysis, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This is a strategic planning technique that helps individuals and organizations identify what's working, what's not, what they need to be aware of, and what they may want to tweak. And a SWOT analysis can be an important part of making decisions, but what I found was that it was almost exclusively focused on external events, so what was happening outside the self, and it didn't leave a lot of room for the internal experience. How do we feel about something? How does it align with our values? What is our gut saying about it? 

And then on the other side of the spectrum, I saw coaches and programs saying, “Go with your gut, trust your gut, if you've got a good feeling about it, move forward”, and they weren't really factoring in the real-life practicalities that we do need to consider when we're making big decisions for our businesses, for our relationships, and in our lives. 

So my hope is that with the D.E.C.I.D.E framework, you will find a system that allows you to consider both, that creates space for your intuition, and your internal GPS, if you will, but also takes into account situational and environmental factors that will influence your decision. So let me share with you the six steps of the D.E.C.I.D.E framework, and then I'm going to break each step down and provide a little more information about it and some examples of how you can apply it as well. The six steps of the D.E.C.I.D.E framework are: 

    • Define the question
    • Explore the deeper meaning
    • Center and connect
    • Invite your inner wisdom
    • Discern your next step
    • Engage with purpose

So we have define, explore, center, invite, discern and engage, which conveniently spells the word D.E.C.I.D.E. and so hopefully that will be an easy way for you to remember all six steps when you are putting this framework into action. 

Let's start with the first step, which is Defining the question, and I want you to ask yourself, “What is really going on here? What am I trying to decide?”, and I realize on the surface, this may seem like a no brainer, but oftentimes when we are presented with an opportunity to make a decision, there's a lot going on. There's a lot of noise, there may be some overwhelm, and we may not be entirely clear on what it is we're deciding, so before we move forward in the process, I think it's wise to take a beat, and just get really clear on the matter at hand, and what decision we want to come out of this process. 

So here's an example I'll share with you, in fact, it's one that I'm living right now. If you've listened to the past couple episodes of the Coach with Clarity podcast, you know that I am launching a certification program for coaches so that at the conclusion of the program, they will become a Certified Clarity Coach, and they'll have the skills they need to serve their coaching clients powerfully, and grow strong businesses while they're at it. And as I was creating the program outline, and thinking about everything I wanted to include, and the structure, and the format, and all of it, I noticed I was starting to feel really overwhelmed. As I thought about what I needed to talk about, when it would all happen, how I would present it, what modalities would work, what type of coaching activities I wanted to pull in – I noticed that I was just starting to feel anxious and overwhelmed. And I know, from plenty of personal experience, that the minute I start to feel overwhelmed, I need to slow down and gain some clarity. I was trying to consider and accomplish too much in one sitting and so I was feeling pulled in in all directions, I was feeling frazzled, and it wasn't the energy that I wanted to bring in to my creation process for the certification program. 

So I got quiet, and I defined the question. Really, in this case, there were two questions I needed to address. The first question was, “What do my students most need to know, in order to be extraordinary coaches?”, and then the follow-up question to that was, “How can I then best serve them?”. So, as soon as I got clear on the fact that this was, “Okay, what do they need to know? That's content. And how can I serve them? That's process.”. I realized, really, I was dealing with two decisions that were connected with each other, and I was able to distill it down into its core essence – content and process – and the minute I had clarity on what it was I was really tackling, all of a sudden, my overwhelm lessened. I felt like I could take a deep breath and I also knew that I had five additional steps in my decision-making process that would support me as I determined what I was going to do next. So that's one way that just to the first step of this D.E.C.I.D.E framework was incredibly helpful for me in my business, but there are numerous ways that you can apply this framework, even outside of business and outside of coaching. 

One example that comes to mind is that right now, in my family, there's a lot of overwhelm going on regarding parenting and everything that's going on in my kid’s lives, in my husband's business, and my business. There's a lot of scheduling that needs to happen, a lot of coordination, and that can feel overwhelming, too. And when that overwhelm comes up, I'm able to slow down and ask myself, “What's really going on here? What do I need to decide?”, and sometimes it's merely a matter of figuring out which parent is going to take which sports practice. Sometimes it's okay, what are my resources here, who can I call on to support me – but the minute I feel overwhelmed and I allow that to serve as my sign of, “Okay, clarify, figure out what's going on here.” because then I can approach my decision-making process with greater calm and greater clarity. 

So once you've completed that first step, and you've Defined the question, then it's time to move on to step two, which is Exploring the deeper meaning, and so basically, what you're asking yourself here is, “Why does this matter?”. And in this step, this is where bringing our values into our decision-making process can really powerfully serve us, because when we lead with our values, we are ensuring that we feel aligned with the decision, and then the subsequent outcome. 

We've talked a bit about values on previous episodes of the podcast, and I also go into it in-depth in my book ACT On Your Business, because values are at the heart of acceptance and commitment therapy, which is a psychotherapeutic approach that I'm trained in, but that also has fantastic applications in the coaching field as well. Part of ACT is knowing what your values are, and allowing them to inform your actions. So if you would like to learn more about values clarification, and how to inform your actions with your values, then definitely check out my book ACT On Your Business. You can find it at CoachwithClarity.com/getthebook

In addition to being really clear on your values and what matters most to you, it's also important to connect with your purpose or your mission, because what I find is that our values and our purpose, connect what we do to who we are. So again, if the actions we're taking in our lives are a natural extension of what matters most to us, then regardless of outcome, we are going to feel in integrity and in alignment and we're going to feel good about the decisions that we've made. 

Now, let's say that you're faced with a decision and it doesn't directly connect with your values, or your purpose, or your mission, and you're having a hard time figuring out how this really works together. Well, there may be a couple things going on here. First and foremost, this may not be a critical decision. This may be something that you need to simply make a decision and move on. Something as simple as, “What are we having for dinner tonight?”. That's not necessarily a decision that I need to bring my values and my purpose in on, that is a decision where it's like, “Okay, just choose something, move on, let's do this.”. So it may simply be that it's not a critical decision, and again, we make thousands of decisions every day in our lives. Not every single one of them is going to be a candidate for the D.E.C.I.D.E framework. 

Sometimes we need to just make a quick decision and move on, but if there are other decisions coming up for you, where it just doesn't feel connected to your purpose or your values, it may be an indication that it is a decision you need to delegate. So perhaps it's not a choice you need to make, but that someone else can make for you. Or maybe it's not an issue you need to address it all. If it's truly not aligned with how you want to live your life, and what matters most to you, then perhaps the bigger question is, “Why am I making this decision at all?”. And, I'll be honest with you, I've had to do some of that in terms of where I invest my time in activities outside of my business and my family. So when I look at organizations that I volunteer with, or social engagements, sometimes when I'm not feeling super connected on a values level anymore, it's an indication that it's time for me to set a boundary, and maybe it's time for me to say no. 

So, a couple things to consider. If as you're going through this framework, you're not feeling like your values and your purpose are aligned with the issue that you've defined in step one, it may not be a critical decision that requires this framework, or it may indicate that it's no longer an issue that you need to prioritize. Again, this is why we bring values and purpose into this stage of the decision-making process because when I can connect my decision with my values, it reaffirms my desire to take action, even when I'm feeling overwhelmed, even when I'm feeling scared about doing something big, and bold, and brave, and completely outside of the box, when I know that it is serving a deeper value, I get excited about it and I'm willing to face that fear and do it anyway because it is in alignment with what matters most to me. 

And again, this certification program that I'm launching is a perfect example of that. Once I defined the question, and I drilled down to the fact that I was considering content and process, then I took a step back and asked myself the larger question of, “Why do I want to launch this certification program? Why is it important to me?”, I was able to connect with my deeper values. In my business, I have four main values that guide everything I do, every decision I make, and every action I take. 

Those four values are radical service, conscious connection, powerful presence, and liberative love. And so when I started looking at my decision to launch this program through the lens of those values, it became crystal clear. From a radical service perspective, I knew that by serving my students fully, and by making sure that I was approaching this program from a comprehensive perspective in terms of the content and process, I would be able to give them the tools and the skills and the support they need to go out and then serve others. And so that value of service would create a ripple effect that could ultimately change the lives of my students, the lives of their clients, the lives of their communities, and even the world. I also looked at it through the lens of powerful presence, as one of my values, and that really means showing up and owning your expertise – your authority and your power – and I knew that this certification program was calling me to do that in an even deeper way in my business and in the lives of my students. And that by owning my expertise, and by sharing my knowledge and experience with my certification students, it grants me an opportunity to step into my presence as a powerful coach, model what that looks like to them, and then help them do the same thing in their business, and in their lives. Again, creating an even deeper ripple effect. 

So connecting my decision with my values motivated me, calmed the overwhelm, like you wouldn't believe, and prepared me for the next stages of the D.E.C.I.D.E framework, and step number three is Center and connect. So with steps three and four, we are really moving into a deeper internal reflection, and we are setting the stage for our intuition, or our inner wisdom to speak. So Centering and connecting is all about creating an environment that welcomes clarity, calm, and focus, because – I don't know about you, but when I'm operating from a place of clarity, calm, and focus – I feel so much more confident about the decisions I'm making and the actions I choose to take as a result. I ask myself how I want to feel, and I create a centering process that is designed to engender those feelings. 

I think it's helpful to think about the state of mind you want to be in, and then allow the centering process to bring you there. Otherwise, we may still be trying to center ourselves, and create calm, and, “I've got to feel calm before I make a decision”, and you can hear that behind that frantic voice is overwhelm, fear, and scarcity. So we want to do what we can to ground ourselves in calm and to create that space for our inner wisdom to come forth. 

So how you Center and connect is going to be entirely based on your preferences and what works for you. There is no one single centering strategy or connection strategy that I'm going to share today, because I think it should be personalized. And not just personalized to you as an individual, but also to the situation and circumstances you find yourself in. Sometimes you've got to make a pretty quick decision on the fly, and you're not going to have 15 or 20 minutes to do a deep meditation, but hopefully, you have time for one deep breath, and maybe a couple of deep breaths, but you can just use the few seconds of taking a deep cleansing breath, to center yourself and to invite that calm in. If it's a bigger decision, though, then I would encourage you to carve out a longer period of time to center and connect. And I will tell you that, as I was considering the certification program, there were multiple times where I would stop and center, and engage in a meditation practice to help me define what my vision was for the program and how I wanted to go about achieving it. 

Now, I don't mean to suggest that meditation is the only way to center yourself. It's not. For my husband, for example, he gains so much clarity and insight by being outside, by being in nature – whether he's outside riding his bike, or kayaking on the river, or even taking a hike in the woods. The act of being outside, and being active with nature, in partnership with nature, is something that he finds incredibly centering. So that might be another strategy that could potentially work for you, but I would encourage you to explore, to play, and to take the time to see what actions will serve you best in centering yourself and inviting that state of clarity, clam, and focus. The goal of course is to create an environment that welcomes our inner wisdom because I believe that each one of us is so wise, we know what it is we need, if only we listen to it. 

So by Centering and connecting, we create the ideal environment for step four of the D.E.C.I.D.E framework, which is Invite your intuition. This is where we can connect with our deep inner wisdom, and allow it to inform the decision-making process. Now, again, this does not have to be a long formal event, if you'd like to have it be an extended meditation, or if you'd like to create a ritual around this, highly recommend doing so – but it doesn't have to be. It may just be that one simple breath, and then you listen or look for your intuition at work. I find as part of my process, it's very helpful to pause, breathe, ground down into my body, and I will do some guided meditations or visual imagery, where I can imagine myself grounding down into the earth, creating roots so that I am connected with the world, and from that place of deep connection, I can then access my inner voice, and I can invite it to join me in this process. And I do so by asking a very particular question, which is, “What do you want me to know about the situation and about this decision?”. Now, I'll tell you, I came to that wording over time, because I used to ask the question, “What would you have me do? What do you think I should do here?”, and I found that that was not the most effective way to approach tapping into my inner wisdom, because it had me focusing too much on the end result and what I should be doing, and so I would get really attached to the outcome, and that attachment was not serving me. 

Whereas when I would ask the question, “What would you have me know about this situation or about this decision I'm making?”, then it opened up a channel for much more information to come through, and I found I was approaching it with a much more open mind and with more opportunity oriented energy. So I'm sharing that with you, in case you find that it's helpful or that it resonates with you so that when we get away from the outcome and the results, and we focus on a greater, deeper knowledge, that's where our inner wisdom really shines. 

I've shared my experience with the certification program as an example for this framework all along, and so I will share with you what came forth for me when I invited my inner wisdom to have a seat at the table and inform me about the decisions I was making. Some of the messages that my inner wisdom shared with me – number one, that it was time to face my fear. The idea of founding a certification program and putting myself out as an expert and coach training made me feel really scared. It activated my imposter syndrome like you wouldn't believe, and what my inner wisdom said was, “Yeah, of course, it did. That's understandable, and it's time to face that and do it anyway.” and in doing so, my inner wisdom also said, “Do not over plan this.”, because that's my thing. When I feel fearful, or anxious, or uncertain, I like to have a plan. There is nothing like a good to-do list to get me going, and I was bringing that energy into the certification program. I wanted to plan out every single session and every single week in great detail, and yes, having that kind of structure would serve my clients, but the motivation behind it was really to make myself feel better. And by connecting with my intuition, I was able to see, this is not the energy that's going to serve me here. So as I was contemplating this decision, the message that came through was, “Yes, create an overall container for this program, have an outline, know where it is you're heading, but leave some room for the magic as well. Do not over plan and over structure things, because that is going to hamper your student's growth and your own growth, as an expert.”. My intuition really invited me to trust myself, to trust my students, and to trust the process, and to allow space for it to unfold because that's where the happy surprises are going to happen, and that's where growth will happen for all of us as well. 

So I've just walked you through the first four steps of the D.E.C.I.D.E framework, and I've used my experience developing my certification program and all of the decisions that have come with that as an example. So now it's time for me to share the final two steps with you, and step number five, I think arguably, might be one of the most important steps in the whole framework, because this is where we Discern our next step. This is the step where we have the marriage between the internal and the external. So you're taking all of that deep, powerful knowledge that your inner wisdom has just shared with you, and you're allowing that to be the lens through which you view the world around you. So this is the point at which we can start looking at external factors, what's going on in your environment? What's going on in your situation? What is the outside data that we need to consider when we're making a decision? 

This was a big one for me with the certification program, because my goal after we complete this first round, is to apply for accreditation with the International Coaching Federation as an approved initial coach training program and to do that, there are all sorts of requirements I need to meet – I need to make sure that the curriculum is consistent with the ICF core competencies, that I'm following the codes of ethics, that I'm hitting all of these pieces that need to be present in an accredited program. And so it's critical for me to honor both, I need to not over plan because that's what my intuition was saying, but I also need to make sure that I'm fully aware of the requirements expected from the International Coaching Federation, and that I'm approaching this in a way that marries both of those together. It's critical for me to have both, but here's the thing, I cannot exclusively attend to the external or allow my program to be guided solely by other people's agendas or desires, because if I do that, then I lose myself in the process. And believe me, I've done that before – that's basically what my entire first year of my coaching practice looked like, where I created a practice that was very corporate-minded because I thought that's what I needed to be in order to be successful, and not only did I lose my sense of self in my business, I wasn't successful. So I've learned along the way that you have to find a way to blend both, and that's where the process of discernment comes in.

Discernment allows me to create space for all – for both myself inner wisdom and the external data – and from that point, I can view all of those requirements and situational factors through the lens of my intuition and my values, and it's in that process where we find the marriage between knowledge and knowing. Knowledge is external, knowing is internal. What does it look like if we bring both of those together in our decision-making process? 

I'll tell you, for me, that is where I find full alignment and when I feel most confident about taking action, and that leads us to step number six in the D.E.C.I.D.E framework, which is Engage with purpose. This is where we take action on the decisions that we've reached, and this step is really important because it's one thing to reach a decision, and it's quite another to take action on it. What I find both in myself and with the people that I coach is that I tend to attract visionary types of people with really high-level incredible visions of what they want to accomplish in their lives. They have big ideas, they have huge goals, but they don't always take action on them, either because they don't know how, or they need support in the implementation and execution of their plan. But oftentimes, it's because they need to break through some blocks that have been holding them back – they need to root out the fear, and they need to really consciously not just decide to do something, but then take action on it. And as coaches, that's one area where we can really partner with our clients to help them take action and stay on track. 

So engaging with purpose is about taking the first step, taking that action that is aligned with your values, that is informed by both your intuition and data, and moving forward, and honestly that first step, it is the hardest, and it is the most important because that's what gets us going and that's where we create momentum. I think about putting this podcast together actually, and it took me months to prepare and sitting down to record that first intro episode was one of the most challenging experiences I've ever had. It required me to show up to the mic, put my voice out there, plant my flag as a coaching expert, and it was hard, and it was totally worth it. And now I've gained momentum with the podcast, so every time I record an episode, it gets easier, more fun, and more aligned. 

It's helpful to remember too, that the best coaches out there are not fearless, the best coaches out there are courageous. They know that fear is going to be there, and it's not a bad thing. The best coaches know that fear often has a lesson for us. There's something that fear wants us to know. So when we can face the fear, when we can listen to the lesson, and then take aligned action in partnership with our fear – well, in my mind, that is true courage, and that is what makes a powerful coach. So there you have it, my friend, that is the D.E.C.I.D.E framework. So just to recap, the six steps of the desired framework are: 

    • Define the question
    • Explore the deeper meaning
    • Center and connect
    • Invite your inner wisdom
    • Discern your next step

Okay, my friend, this week's Clarity in Action moment probably won't come as a surprise to you. Your challenge is to take this D.E.C.I.D.E framework and apply it to a decision that you have been contemplating in your life. If you've been feeling stuck around something or if you've been going back and forth on a decision in your life, then I'm going to suggest that you're listening to this podcast episode right now at the right time because it's meant to serve you and meant to help you land on a decision that feels good to you. So whatever decision that you've been contemplating, take the D.E.C.I.D.E framework, walk through it step by step, and allow it to help you arrive at a decision. And if you're so inclined, I would love to know more about how the D.E.C.I.D.E framework works for you. You can come find me on Instagram @CoachwithClarity, or you can find me over in the Coach with Clarity Facebook group at CoachwithClarity.com/facebookgroup

I can't wait to hear how the D.E.C.I.D.E framework supports you in making stronger decisions and in guiding your clients along a decision making framework as well. As always, thank you so much for joining me for another episode of the Coach with Clarity podcast. I will be back in your podcast feed next week with another episode, but until then, be sure to go check out the Certified Clarity Coach Program and submit your application at CoachwithClarity.com/application. Until then, this is Lee Chaix McDonough, reminding you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.

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