Result TriangleJay Shepherd is one of the smartest people I know.

If you want proof of Jay’s sheer brilliance, he quit practicing law. Now he writes and helps companies find better ways to work. His first book, Firing At Will: A Manager’s Guide, is “an unlawerly handbook” for “the riskiest thing you can do at work with your clothes on.” Here’s my review.

Jay is also one of the clearest thinkers on how to simplify business problems. The key is figuring out where people get caught in fear, or processes, or just stuff that doesn’t matter. After litigating employment and business disputes for many years, and spending lots of time researching how and where things went sideways, Jay came up with the Result Triangle.

The Result Triangle is 3 interrelated pieces that matter when we try to figure out a question or problem. When you address all 3 pieces, you have a simple and effective way to make a decision.

The 3 pieces are:

  1. clarify the goal;
  2. show you care;
  3. and address the fear.

He has a great Ignite talk on how to use the Results Triangle here, along with examples of the how to use the Result Triangle involving airplanes, coats, and brussels sprouts. There’s even a handy dandy worksheet you can download here.

Most people and companies are good at figuring out their goals. And many are pretty good at showing they care . . . well, at least about themselves. But knowing what you want and caring about it is exactly the right place to start.

The tricky piece is addressing the fear. We have a “never let them see you sweat” culture where we’re not supposed to be afraid. If we are scared, we don’t talk about it.

Fear is exactly what gets us stuck. Fear of being taken advantage of and fear of litigation is what’s behind most bad policies at work. A great example is social-media policies which are really about fear of looking bad. Fear of not being good enough keeps people stuck in bad jobs. Fear of failure keeps companies from taking chances on new ideas.

Until people and companies get clear on what they are afraid of, it’s impossible to make a really good decision. The Result Triangle is a great tool to change that.