As leaders, we constantly have to make decisions. Everyday there are countless decisions made that impact our teams and mission. Good leaders understand the ramifications of decision-making and learn to use this power wisely.
In my experience, there are usually two immediate considerations when I am presented with the opportunity to make a decision—fast or slow. Is this something I can or need to decide quickly or is it something for which we should proceed cautiously? Some decisions can and should be arbitrary decisions—decisions made very quickly. Others need to be calculated decisions—decisions made much slower. Growing to understand which type of decision-making to use at a given time will help you make better decisions and ultimately be a better leader.
According to dictionary.com, arbitrary decisions are based on random choice or personal whim rather than any reason or system.
Calculated decisions are made with full awareness of the likely consequences, carefully planned or intended.
I know leaders who have made very quick, instant arbitrary decisions only to grow to regret them—this leader being one.
I know others, again including this one, who took too long to make a calculated decision, and the delay was costly.
Seven Examples of Thoughts That Go Into the Decision-Making Process
- There is a serious and immediate threat or danger to people or the organization.
- The perceived impact has a limited lifespan or is easily reversible.
- The decision has a low cost or investment.
- The decision-maker is the implementer. This is a huge one in delegation.
- I have a sure "gut" about it; it's a "no-brainer."
- The same decision has been made many times.
- We are doing an experiment attached to a set time.
While this is not a checklist, using some parameters like these, I weigh my options and try to make decisions as quickly as possible, knowing there will be another decision which needs to be made soon.
And, then, sometimes, even though we can be overwhelmed with the amount of decisions needed; sometimes, we simply need to take our time.
- No serious threat exists to people or the organization. You don't have to do this.
- There are longer-term implications. We will have to live with this a while.
- Higher cost and greater human investment
- Other people will have to be the implementers. The decision impacts others more than the decision-maker.
- My gut isn't at peace, and I have no clear conviction.
- The decision has been made very few times, if ever.
- I haven't consulted with a collection of wise voices, and there is time to do so.
These are not foolproof, and these lists are not exhaustive in making decisions. Often, we can make excuses to delay responding when, in reality, we know we need to make a decision. Other times we move so fast we never consider the impact on other people—people who have to live with the consequences of our decisions. The main idea here is all decisions can't be made at the same pace. Sometimes we move fast, with a very arbitrary decision. Sometimes we need to be very calculated in our response. Next time you have to make a decision, consider which method you should use for the occasion.
Do you see the difference in the two?
I should note: If God has made the answer clear, you don't need this post. Simply obey.
Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.
This article originally appeared at ronedmondson.com.
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