There are 6 words that serve as kryptonite to my family.
“Where do you want to go to eat?"
This question is always followed by the equally frustrating question, “I don’t care, where do you want to go to eat?"
How many times have you experienced this series of back and forth? Maybe it is with a group of friends, a spouse, your kids or a boyfriend/girlfriend. If you are like us, this exchange does three things. First, it immediately renders us all incompetent to make any type of adult decision. Next, it magically augments all of my family’s tastebuds to simultaneously desire different things and to have gag reflexes at the thoughts of what the others want. Finally, it evokes a feeling of Hulk-like rage from yours truly.
The last time this happened I grew so impatient. I responded by pulling the car over on the side of the road, put it in park, and refuse to drive anywhere until someone stepped up and made a decision. Yeah, that did not go so well for me. Needless to say, we did not end up at the restaurant I wanted to eat at!
Ever had an irrational reaction to a simple problem? I have! While I reflect on those moments as humorous, there are times when we face major decisions that actually carry weight in our lives. Heavy decisions impact every area of our lives, especially as a leader. Perhaps you are facing one right now. When should I hire more staff? When do we add another service or product? Do I allow negativity to continue on my leadership team? Is there a better way to engage volunteers in my church? Should I fire an underperforming team member? How do I admit to my own feelings of inadequacy in my role?
Questions like this are real. Whatever decision you are facing, I want to challenge you to engage in the process of making it. Here are 6 reasons you need to make that difficult call.
Decisions impact people.
People matter. I have never been faced with a tough call that did not impact people. Snap decisions or dragging one out for too long can hurt people. Decisions I have made have caused me to eliminate someone’s job, change hundreds of people's favorite service times, close a campus that served as many people’s church home, radically reduce an entire team’s spending expectations, decline someone their dream job, rethink a season’s worth of work for a department, and sadly dismiss people from my team. No matter how “right” the decision I made was, it was never good because lives were hurt. Never lose tenderness in your heart for people. Care for people in what you decide, how you communicate, and the process you use to carry out your decision.
Progress can happen.
Indecision paralyzes progress. Often when we find ourselves staring down the barrel of a tough call, we freeze. For the leader time stands still, for everything else in the organization it continues to move. We are arrested by the enormity of the decision, sometimes rightfully so. We may not realize that when the leader is standing still, everyone else feels like they are too. Making the call, even an unpopular one, frees everyone up to move forward. Progress can occur once we decide. Use a decision as a way to create momentum.
Stress melts away.
Seasons of great stress for me occur when I am pouring an impending major move. I recall a time in 2009 when our leadership was making some difficult changes on our staff. Due to financial circumstances, we had to reduce staff. It had to happen, that was clear. How it would happen became the tension point. Those few months for me were agonizing. I was stressed, despondent from my family, lost weight, was at odds with people I am close with, and was often the bad guy in the room. Once our decision was made, I felt an almost immediate weight lift from my shoulders. Were the ensuing months of executing our decision difficult? More than I can describe. That said, making that tough call brought an immediate release to the stress I had been carrying.
Stress takes a toll. Here are some healthy ways to deal with stress in your life.
Growth is forced.
Few things grow your leadership more than navigating a hard decision. Difficult calls stretch you in some way. You learn how to deal with the reactions of people, manage your own emotions and how to communicate change. Every major decision I have faced left me stronger on the other side of it. When I interview for potential staff roles now I like to ask candidates, “Tell me about the last decision you made that isolated you as the least popular person on your team.” If they do not have a good example, I know they have a lot of room to grow.
You gain credibility.
People marvel at leaders with talent. People are infatuated by leaders with charisma. People respect leaders with guts. Making an unpopular decision sets you up as someone to be respected. I have served with many leaders, some good at making difficult decisions, others not. What I have taken away is that I do not need to follow a leader I agree with on every call, but I cannot follow a leader too insecure to decide. A leader who can maintain emotional stability, see the bigger picture, gain good insight and make a tough decision in a reasonable time is one I want to follow! Work hard to gain and keep credibility. Having the strength to decide accelerates this process for you.
Wisdom enters in.
This point assumes that you do not make major decisions alone. If you do, for the sake of those you lead, please stop doing so. Surround yourself with people who can help you think. Wisdom comes to you in the form of other voices. My rule is that the bigger the decision, the older the people I seek advice from. Why? Because they have more experience. They have succeeded, they have failed. I need someone who has walked through similar things on a larger scale. If you are adding service times in your church, seek advice from the person who has 5 services on a weekend, not the person with only 2.
The next time you are facing a difficult choice remember that you are not alone. Involve others in your process, gain wisdom, take adequate time to weigh the options, and decide. It will require some guts to do so, but once you do you are on the path to enhancing your organization. Good luck and happy decision making!