When you are the leader of an organization all the biggest decisions rest on your shoulders. But often times we overlook the fact that the WAY we make decisions and how we FOLLOW UP on them are just as important as the decision itself.
How many times have you found yourself on the defensive about a decision you have made for your organization? Here’s an even better question: how often have you found yourself in this position over a seemingly insignificant decision? Either way, the reasons for this are almost always tied back to communication. I see this issue way more than I should when I’m doing communication consulting and nothing can derail your momentum faster. So allow me to give you some practical tips on how to make – and stick with – big decisions.
I was recently on the campus of a church I’m doing communication consulting for and when I walked into the Sr. Pastor’s office I caught the tail end of what was clearly a very frustrating phone call. Several months prior to engaging me they had made a pretty significant branding change and were still dealing with the fallout. I only heard about a minute of the phone conversation but it was enough. He hung up the phone, turned to me and without missing a beat said “Well, now you know why you’re here. So how can we fix this and what do we have to do to NEVER HAVE TO GO THROUGH THIS AGAIN?” A lot of you reading this right now are feeling his pain because you’ve been there and it can be maddening.
There’s no perfect, foolproof solution for this issue. After all, people are people, and dealing with them is a lot like shooting at a moving target. But there are some very simple and practical things you can do to minimize conflict surrounding big decisions. For the sake of consistency and tangibility, let’s use the decision of a branding change as our example in this post. So let’s get into it.
- How & Why vs What – Often the key to avoiding conflict over big decisions is more about HOW and WHY the decision is made than WHAT the decision is actually about. It is very important that how and why are always clearly communicated. Make sure people are informed WHY an issue is on the table. Why is our logo a problem? Is it turning people off? Is it out of date and in need of something fresher and more current? Have we gotten negative feedback about it? And then focus on the HOW. How are we making the decision? Who is involved and how are you as a group making the decision? What does the process look like? If you can address these things before the final decision is made, you can knock out a lot of issues up front and have smoother sailing once it is done.
- Data & Statistics – Make sure you know what you’re talking about and can back it up with cold hard facts. When it comes to winning in a situation like this, ultimately facts overcome feelings every time. That’s not to say that you ignore or trample all over people’s feelings. We have to be sensitive and patient. But stick to your guns and politely persevere.
- Focus On The Benefits – Whenever a big change is coming, it is your job as the leader to sell it! You have to get people excited about it. Let them know how it’s going to make their life and the life of the church better. This new branding is going to help us reach more people. Make it easier for you to invite your friends. Help us fulfill our mission and purpose. And ultimately be a tool in changing people’s lives for all eternity. Who’s going to argue with that?
- Count The Cost – When you are making a really big decision, something that will affect most everyone in your organization, make sure it’s worth the effort. Sometimes when you do everything right in the process, you win people over, most everyone is happy and it’s a big victory. But sometimes it doesn’t go that way. You have to decide if this hill is worth dying on or not. How much time, energy, money and good will do you want to use up on this issue? Sometimes it is absolutely worth it. Sometimes it’s not. Knowing the difference is everything.
- This Too Shall Pass – If you’ve counted the cost and decided – along with your team – to move forward anyway, know that the storm will come, but also know that it will pass. In most cases the complainers are a vocal minority so don’t let them poison the majority. Take the hits, be as gracious as possible and take comfort in knowing that it will fade sooner than later. Think about all the news stories that break as huge issues only to virtually disappear just a few days or weeks later like they never even happened.
- Do Not Cave – If you’ve done your due diligence, done a good job of communicating HOW & WHY, shared the data, prayed over it and your team is confident that this decision is the right thing to do, then DO NOT CAVE. You absolutely have to stick to your guns. Every time you cave your are undermining your own authority and that of your leadership. It only emboldens the naysayers and they will start challenging you more and more every chance they get. But if they see that you and your leadership are going to stick to your guns, over time they will challenge you less and less because they know it won’t lead anywhere.
I would love to hear your thoughts and advice about additional ways to make and stick with big decisions. Hit me up on Twitter at @MarkClement with the hashtag #bigdecisions.