Several years ago the last organization in which I worked was having to make a decision that would reflect a change in the way it had been operating. A small group was assigned to brainstorm some possible ways to make this change occur. Several potential solutions were presented to the larger staff. A number of them were very similar. Most of them were quickly eliminated, but several options remained. To me, it was very obvious which one made the most sense.
For several months we spent time in each staff meeting discussing which option to pursue. One person’s title and primary responsibilities would be most affected by the change I thought was the most logical. It was very obvious he did not want this option chosen, and senior leadership was reluctant to choose it even though in private conversations many admitted it was the best option.
As we began to discuss it again in yet another staff meeting I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. I told everyone I was raised on a farm. Every spring we would plow the fields, but we only plowed them once. We didn’t plow them in one direction one week, plow them another direction the next week, and them come back and plow them again. I said we have plowed this field for months now, and it’s time to make a decision. We need to quit talking about this issue and make a decision. The next week the decision was made to select the option that was obviously the best one the first time it was presented. Not everyone was happy with the decision, but it was the best for the organization.
There is a time to discuss options, and there is a time to make decisions. Part of leadership is making decisions, some of which will not be popular. Those in leadership have to make a choice. They can lead or they can make everyone happy all the time. They won’t do both. The story is told of a politician who was pushed about a particular issue. When asked his opinion he responded, “Well, some of my friends are for it and some are against it.” The reporter asked, “What’s your position?” The politician answered, “I agree with my friends.” You cannot lead and straddle the fence on important decisions.
Sometimes we hesitate making a decision because we want more input or information. That is valid to a point, but it’s important to remember that we will seldom have all the information we might want. Sometimes we have to make decisions based upon the information we currently have. If new information comes along that would change our decision, we can make the adjustments then. To wait until we are convinced that we have all the information we could ever need means we will seldom make a decision.
Religious leaders often postpone making a decision by saying they need to pray about it some more. Prayer is always appropriate, but there is a time to pray and a time to decide. Don’t spiritualize your unwillingness to make a decision.
When leaders won’t make decisions it becomes very demotivating to those they are supposed to be leading. These folks are uncertain which way to go until they receive direction which never comes when decisions are not made in a timely manner. Everything grinds to a halt. Resources are wasted and opportunities are missed.
I fully realize that some decisions are very difficult to make, and there are times when I struggle making decisions that I know I need to make. Still, the decision must be made and putting it off won’t make it any easier.
Gather as much information as you can in a reasonable time. Talk it over with trusted people. Pray about it. Make the decision and move forward.