Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Decision making

I just finished reading Decision Points by George W. Bush. It was an interesting look at his eight year presidency through his own eyes. He didn't attempt to cover all the events that occurred during this time but wanted to show the thinking that went behind the decisions he made. He admitted some of the decisions could have been better, and I'm sure his critics would insist most of his decisions could have been better. Regardless of how one feels about President Bush I found the book a fascinating look at how he responded to the various issues that arose during his time in office.

Leaders are required to make decisions. Many of those decisions will be tough ones. People under the leader can make the easy decisions; the toughest ones will be the ones that find the leader's desk. Some of the decisions you make will be unpopular. Some will be wrong. Some will be resisted by the people you serve.

As I wrote in yesterday's post, churches need pastors who will be leaders. They need people who won't be afraid to make the tough calls in order to move the church forward. Today's pastors need to be people who are guided by God's vision for the church they are serving and are determined to lead according to that vision. Such leadership will not always be appreciated, and in some churches it will get you fired. But, that's better than leaving the church in the same ruts it's been in for the past many decades.

The secret is learning how to make the right decision most of the time. No leader gets it right every time, but most of us can improve our average. As the decisions we make prove to be the right ones people will trust us more and give us more authority to make further choices.

Chip and Dan Heath wrote Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work to help leaders make better decisions. They suggest a four-step process for making better choices they call WRAP.

  1. Widen your options. Too often we go into a situation thinking we must choose between A and B. Most of the time there are more than two alternatives, and as you seek out further options you are more likely to make the best choice.
  2. Reality-test your assumptions.  It's vital that you collect information from people you trust. Too often we look only for information that confirms our biases, and this can lead to bad decisions. Some of Bush's poor decisions, like those of all in leadership, came from not having good information. We may never have all the information we want before making a decision, but the more accurate information we have the more likely our decisions will be better.
  3. Attain distance before deciding. Emotions can cloud our thinking much more than we might think. When Peyton Manning was asked after winning the Super Bowl if he was going to retire he responded that he didn't want to make an emotional decision. We need to put some distance between us and the situation before making a decision.
  4. Prepare to be wrong. Sometimes we are overconfident we know what the future holds. Bush admitted in his book that no one on his staff understood how serious the financial crisis was. They quickly learned that the initial steps they took to turn the economy around was insufficient. The fact is that we don't know what we don't know. You may make the best decision you can make based upon the information you have, but when new information becomes available you may have to adjust your response.
How could you use this WRAP approach in the decision-making process you use in your church?

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