There was a governing board of a bank who chose a bright, charming, young man to succeed their retiring bank president. The young man came to the old man to ask for help. The conversation began, “Sir, what is the main thing I must possess to successfully follow you as president of this bank?” The crusty old man replied, “The ability to make decisions, decisions, decisions.” “How can I learn to do that?” the young man asked. “Experience, experience, experience” replied the retiring president. “But how do I get experience?” The old man looked at him and said, “Bad decisions, bad decisions, bad decisions.”
Continuing our series on Leader’s Always Hurt and Get Hurt, I’m going to start with one of the ways you, as a leader, hurt others. It’s all about decision-making.
Every leader must make decisions. Some decisions are small, like what day and time to have a meeting. Some decisions are large, like a shift in priorities for your ministry. We make decisions quite frequently.
There are times when not everyone is going to like some of the decisions we make. The consequences of this can vary greatly. Here are some of the reactions I have seen in the past when someone on my team or in my church doesn’t like a decision I’ve made:
- They never talk to you again…and you usually don’t know why.
- They start talking about the bad decision to others.
- They begin to rally others to dislike the decision and try to get it overturned.
- They leave the church or ministry completely, taking their dollars and volunteer hours with them.
- They schedule an appointment with you to understand why the decision was made.
I’m sure there are other reactions, but these seem to be the most common. You have hurt them because, from their perspective, you made a bad decision that affects them in some way.
How do you make a big decision that you think is the best decision when others are not for it? The hope is to help everyone see that the decision that is being made is best for everyone. Here are some strategies and perspectives to keep in mind:
- Sometimes the leader sees a bigger picture that others don’t see. My goal is to try to help them see the bigger picture, but I don’t always succeed. If I can adequately paint a picture of the brighter future, then we go a long way to creating support.
- Clearly articulate the reason for the decision. People don’t like change just for the sake of change. You need to have good reasons for the change that you can articulate. If you want to change things just to change things, you will always meet resistance. When you make a big decision and you foresee others being against the decision, find a way to clearly articulate why you made the decision.
- Sometimes you need to make the decision anyways in hopes that in time, everyone will see it was the right decision. This takes patience. I’ve made a decision recently that I know we won’t see the full fruits of for a couple years. My goal is that in 3-5 years, everyone will look back at the decision I made and think it was a good one. Right now, not everyone thinks it was a good decision. I need to bide my time and work hard to make the decision pay off. In the meantime, I need to continue to work with those who think my decision was a poor one.
I really wish everyone would like the decisions I make. But that’s not going to happen. I learn that lesson everyday with my toddler when she gets mad at me and cries for brushing her teeth or wiping her nose. She doesn’t like it, but it is the right decision to do those things.
Question: What decision have you made that has hurt other people?