How do you go about making a critical decision?

For the last number of weeks, the world has watched an incredible exercise in decision-making. After the horrific chemical attack in Syria, the leaders of the world were forced into having to determine how they — and subsequently the countries they lead — would respond.

Tough Decisions Ahead Road Sign

Many responded quickly and unilaterally. Others made their positions known; however, they systemically needed the support of other elected officials. And still others seemed to fall somewhere between those two approaches.

Albeit a very real tragic set of circumstances; from a process perspective it has been, frankly, fascinating to observe. I have spent decades being in a “decision-making-seat.” I have also spent significant time working with both individual leaders and leadership bodies during times of critical decision-making.

Last week I asked a number of people, “How do you go about making a critical decision?” The answers, as you might imagine, were varied — but fell somewhere on the continuum of “always go with my gut,” to “consult with a wide variety people.”

Part of my ever-increasing perspective is the significant change that has taken place in terms of who needs to be a part of the decision-making process. For example, to the best of my research and my experience, it has only been in the last decade or so that many in Congress have come to rely so heavily on the polls. Whether opinion has been collected by pollsters, calls, or emails into their offices or town forums, more than ever elected officials wait to make their decision until they have a sense of the pulse of their constituents (and of course there is that point about wanting to be re-elected). The reality is: in our culture, and ever-expanding across the globe, there is a clear expectation that every person gets to voice his or her opinion on everything.

Those with whom I have worked closely know that I am a strong proponent of both collaboration and consensus-building. I support a process that builds both shared decision-making, but also shared responsibility and accountability for the outcome of the decision. One of my early mentors put it this way: “Opinions are like belly buttons — everybody has one. Who we’re looking for, however, are those who will bring real skin to the game — real investment to the work.”

Lots of folks around Jesus had opinions about his decisions. “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors?” Many asked. Well, Jesus always seemed to be willing to listen to those around him. Yet, he also clearly expected those he listened to not only to share their opinions — but to really move into relationship with him.

So how do we make our critical decisions? Whom do we include? And are we willing to move beyond just giving our opinion and into being willing to walk with others, all the way to the end? Jesus is willing!

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