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Reaching Better Team Decisions (free sample)

How to make important choices without dividing the group.
Store Code: PS63
Format: Microsoft Word
Type: Article

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Note: This article is included in our download series, Making Teams Work.




Over the years, I have bungled the decision-making process. I look back at the strained relationships and frigid atmospheres to which I contributed, and I question whether winning the decision merited the cost. In recent years, though, I've discovered that the process of making a major decision can actually be unifying and energizing. Here are several principles that help build that kind of unity.

Teammates wear the same color.

The way we make a decision often proves as important as the result we achieve, for it affects morale and commitment. Our culture accustoms us to the model of parliamentary debate. Unfortunately, this method usually entrenches individuals in their view as they seek to defend it, to disparage opposing views, and to persuade a majority to join their side.

A quantum shift occurred in my thinking when I realized that the discussion of issues does not have to be adversarial. Instead, it can be a team effort to find the right solution. Edward de Bono's "six thinking hats" approach to making decisions provides a good way forward. Rather than taking sides during discussion, everyone works together at a given time on the same task. The colors of the imaginary hats represent different tasks. These include exploring advantages (yellow), problems (black), feelings (red), and alternatives (green). Because everyone wears the same color hat at the same time, cooperation prevails.

Try another stance.

Sometimes, no matter how hard I try to keep everyone on the same team, I find one person who persists in antagonism. At times, I've caught myself communicating intimidating messages to the dissenters: "Where's your faith, anyway? You're opposing God's will! Shame on you."

I wouldn't actually say these things out loud, but my attitude made it clear how I felt. Threatened by their disagreement, my natural inclination was to silence them. I have learned to temper this ungodly inclination by putting myself in the place of those who disagree. From there I can consider whether my actions will make them feel alienated or demoralized.

Paul tells us to "outdo one another in showing honor" (Romans 12:10). This does not simply refer to those who are spiritually strong or who agree with us. Publicly and privately, I now seek to affirm those who disagree. When people feel valued, they will more likely identify with the church, support the decisions made, and be energized to serve.

Wait for your pitch.

A good proposal at the wrong time is a bad idea, but a good proposal at the right time becomes a great idea. Five years ago our board recommended building an addition that would cost nearly two million dollars. Many members questioned the wisdom, since we still had a large mortgage on our existing facility.

While I strongly favored it, I realized that the proposal was premature, and I did not push for it. Three years later, when we revisited the idea, many still opposed it. Again we tabled the matter. We have now finished paying off the mortgage, and the church has experienced growth and the beginning of revival. Recently the proposal passed overwhelmingly. More importantly, members are united and excited about the future.

Finding the right moment to prompt a decision can be frustrating. I've learned to look for several factors in timing a decision:

  • Are the opinion leaders to whom people look for direction in favor? If a significant number are opposed, we proceed at our own folly. We act wisely in first gaining their support.
  • Do substantial obstacles still exist, or have the issues been adequately addressed? Satisfactory answers to nagging questions and solutions to past problems gave the proposal credibility and defused opposition.
  • Does a climate of mutual trust, appreciation, and caring exist? If not, I need to work at building this spirit. Otherwise, the process of deciding deteriorates into mistrust, antagonism, and division.
  • Do the people have an attitude of faith and expectancy that God is at work? If so, they will be more willing to stretch and sacrifice. Building this spiritual environment often involves small steps of faith, steps that build spiritual momentum toward a larger vision.
  • Are the members growing toward spiritual maturity? Spiritual immaturity includes a weak commitment to biblical values, the priority of personal interests, and the lack of a close relationship with God.

My type-A personality groans at waiting. I want things to happen now, if not sooner; but building mutual trust and love, faith, and spiritual maturity does not happen overnight. Every good decision needs a solid foundation of proper attitudes and faith.

— Stephen Lim is professor of leadership and ministry at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri; adapted from our sister publication Leadership Journal, © 2006, updated 2012 Christianity Today. For more articles like this one, visit www.LeadershipJournal.net.

Discuss

  1. What is our posture toward opposition—defensive or accommodating?
  2. When has forcing a new proposal at the wrong time proven ineffective?
  3. Which of the observations above will be most helpful for improving your decision making?
Topics:Church Staff, Committees, Decision making, Meetings, Team building, Team leadership, Teamwork
Filters:Church board, Deacon, Elder, Management, Pastor, Volunteer
References:None

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Displaying 1–5 of 5 comments

Joseph Sullivan

November 01, 2012  10:28pm

The article is good. Appreciated the reminder of DeBono's "six thinking hats" but I agree with Dollie (above). I would have like to hear something more from the team - perhaps on the how to lead the strong willed "opinion leaders"?

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Pat

May 20, 2009  10:39am

Perfect timing! I am in the midst of a decision making process that has frustrated me at times, so I need all the support I can get so that I don't alienate, jump ahead, become impatient, give up, etc.

Pat Newsom

May 14, 2009  3:12pm

Excellent examples, well-thought article. Glad you shared from a personal perspective-- how God moved you from a "boss" to a team leader.

joethella gipson

May 14, 2009  9:45am

This is such a great volume of information. Simple, workable, and necessary for christian work as teams. Thank you for common sense ideas.

Dollie Metts

May 14, 2009  9:10am

This was good but I expected some words from team members.

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