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:
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.
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