Unlocking Pathways to Success: Jack Flaherty (MBA ‘00) Shares Expert Insights in His New Book The Decision Switch: 7 Principles for Successful Decision-Making
Jack Flaherty (MBA ‘00), CEO and Founder of The Decision Switch™, a renowned expert in the fields of risk management and decision-making, recognizes the profound impact our choices have on personal and professional success. In his new book, The Decision Switch: 7 Principles for Successful Decision-Making, he presents a proven framework that provides readers with the knowledge to consistently make optimal choices in business and life including fundamental tools for informed and impactful decision-making.
Throughout his career, Jack has held prominent leadership roles focused on building high-performing teams and nurturing the success of college graduates in the business world. Starting on Wall Street, he gained invaluable experience as an associate on Morgan Stanley's Interest Rate Derivatives Trading Desk, emphasizing the importance of providing support and clear expectations to new team members. After transitioning from investment banking to consulting, he spent 15 years with Deloitte and PwC, where he made decision-making a priority and recognized its critical role in achieving success. Jack's journey eventually led him to the world of Web3 and blockchain, where he served as an executive officer and strategic advisor, gaining unique insights into the challenges faced by future leaders. His journey has highlighted the significance of decision-making as a critical skill, prompting him to educate leaders on making effective choices to consistently achieve their objectives.
Gain further insights into Jack's remarkable journey by reading his interview below.
Read Jack’s Interview:
1. Could you please tell us about your background and career path that has led you to specialize in the field of decision-making?
Throughout my career, I consistently found myself in leadership roles where I was responsible for building high-performing teams. A passion ensued, as I gained tremendous fulfillment in cultivating college graduates into business professionals with the requisite knowledge and skills to be successful.
My journey started on Wall Street, after joining Morgan Stanely as an associate on their Interest Rate Derivatives Trading Desk. It was a chaotic and fast-paced environment, where you either quickly learned to swim or you would be replaced. I vividly recall hiring my first college graduate, where during our onboarding conversation I bluntly laid down my expectations and personal assurances that I would provide them with the knowledge, support, and tools required to succeed. That conversation would become a blueprint for every subsequent onboarding discussion I would have with a new hire or team member.
After leaving New York City and the world of investment banking, I enjoyed a lengthy career consulting on risk management and technology. I spent the next 15 years with Deloitte and PwC, which proved to be a critical gift in my personal development. Each firm provided me with the continuing education and mentoring I needed to level-up and lead increasingly larger and more complex teams. While every individual had their personal development plan, I always made sure that decision-making was a formal or informal priority. My reasoning was not completely altruistic, as my path to partner required building a book of business and to do so meant delegating critical decisions and client discussions. Without trust, I would not have been able to focus my attention on scaling an already healthy portfolio of clients.
Having my fill with risk management consulting, I took a leap of faith and joined the world of Web3 and blockchain. Serving various stints as an executive officer and strategic advisor, I was provided with a unique perspective of the challenges tomorrow’s leaders would be facing. Having overseen aspects of my client’s strategy, sales, and operations, two things became crystal clear to me. First, the root cause for virtually every issue I uncovered boiled down to one thing, poor decision-making. Second, these firms attracted and hired brilliant individuals, however, virtually none of them had received training or displayed a strong acumen on how to make an effective decision.
2. What inspired you to delve into the topic of decision-making and write this book?
My inspiration for writing The Decision Switch: 7 Principles for Decision-Making was simple. I felt it was my purpose, responsibility, and something I wanted to leave behind as part of my legacy. The greatest joy I find in life is helping others become better versions of themselves. Finding a direct correlation between one’s success and the ability to consistently make productive decisions, I felt launching my platform, The Decision Switch™, was the next logical step in my life journey.
We are in the midst of a technological revolution, which according to Moore’s Law, the speed of change is getting exponentially faster. As a result, we are fed a constant flow of information and asked to make decisions in what often feels like incomprehensible timeframes.
And yet, having worked with our next generation of technology leaders, I frequently have found gaps in their suite of executive functioning skills. A void that might have been historically addressed through mentoring or work experience, these solutions have been disrupted as well. With the introduction of real-time communications and an ever-increasing adoption of a remote workforce, I predict our next generation of leaders will not have access to the same knowledge and tools I am grateful to have acquired throughout my career.
With this mindset, I established a new personal mission. Educate leaders on how to make effective decisions, at the speed their role requires. A skill that will forever empower them to consistently achieve their goals and objectives.
3. In your book, you mention the principle of "Triage First" as a fundamental element of successful decision-making. Could you provide us with a preview of what you mean by "Triage First" and how it can significantly impact the decision-making process?
While architecting the framework behind The Decision Switch: 7 Principles of Successful Decision-Making, I purposely chose to name Principle One - Triage First: Increase Your Productivity by Assessing and Prioritizing Before Taking Action. It's a disruptive phrase that frequently catches a reader's attention and I wanted to surface the concept that our time is precious and we need to prioritize the decisions we are required to make on a daily basis.
We are asked to make approximately 35,000 decisions every day. Your success depends on the ability to filter through this litany of decisions and identify those which demand our attention. Due to the influence of our smartphones and misaligned priorities, it is easy to see how someone can get distracted from their goals and objectives.
Coupling this with Principle Two - Follow Your North Star: Defining a Clear Objective Serves to Align All Subsequent Decisions, the one takeaway that I recommend adopting is asking yourself before every critical decision, does this align with my goals or objectives?
In the case of Triage First, if your answer is no, consider setting that decision aside and first addressing those which will propel you to achieve your goals and objectives.
4. What is one thing that you learned from your experience at Graziadio that has influenced
Relationships, Relationships, Relationships.
Despite the amount of technology resources available to assist you in applying for a job, identifying business opportunities, or even finding your spouse, there is no substitute for personal relationships. One thing that technology and automation cannot replace is a meaningful relationship, as that is still how business is fundamentally conducted.
5. What advice do you have for those looking to build a similar career path or transition into your function or industry?
With a heavy emphasis on humility, I am not sure you could ever replicate the path my career has taken. Having worked and lived through the rise and fall of numerous industries, I will emphasize two things that will help you sustain a successful career. First, recognize when an industry (or playing field) is changing and assess whether there’s a path forward for you. Second, learn to adapt the skills you have acquired and learn how to quickly apply them to new industries and careers.
As it relates to the careers you choose to pursue, I suggest first taking a step back and performing a full self-assessment. Far too often, I found individuals pursue careers that sounded sexy and interesting, only to find out afterward that certain aspects made it unsustainable. On multiple occasions, I have confidentially advised individuals to consider leaving the firm and maybe consulting altogether, for the sake of their families and quality of life.
Based on the results of your self-assessment, I recommend defining a clear goal on what type of role you seek to ultimately achieve. This might require you to take a path that you had not initially considered. Speaking from experience, when I left the Graziadio Business School, my ultimate goal was to become a college professor under the condition that I would be able to sustain the lifestyle of my choosing. While I am still on that journey, I found I was able to attain the same personal fulfillment from having the opportunity to coach scores of college graduates over the course of my career.
6. What is your favorite quote?
Borrowing a quote composed by a good friend...
“We will forget what people said but you’ll never forget how they made you feel.”
- Shola Richards, Author of Go Together: How the Concept of Ubuntu Will Change How You Live, Work, and Lead