Does the True North leader have a sure-fire way to make good decisions?



35,000 decisions a day. Experts seem to agree, that number is a realistic estimate of how many choices we make every day of our life. What?

Well, just think about it for a moment — if you did, you just made a decision, right? When you woke up this morning, count how many decisions you made starting with, will I really let that annoying alarm get me out of bed at this moment? Breakfast? Clothes selections?

I once worked for a visionary entrepreneur whose decision-making process worked for him. (Not so sure about the rest of us.) I often observed how he dealt with myriad inputs simultaneously. My metaphor explained how he juggled many balls in the air and when needing to make a decision about any one of them, his magic super power somehow allowed him to pull one ball out of the rotation (all the while keeping the others circulating), focus on it, make a decision about it, and then toss it back into the mix. Because of this proclivity, you might imagine that:

· He didn’t spend much time on each decision

· Very little, if any, due diligence informed his decisions

· Expediency was his highest goal

· Keeping all the airborne balls rotating perfectly was his happy spot

And, BTW, I have no recollection of him ever second-guessing himself or even ruminating over a decision nor its outcomes or consequences. Both good and bad in that leadership style.

He was a decisive decision maker.

But let’s talk about you and your decision-making style and process.

Experts seem to agree to four primary decision-making styles: Directive, Analytical, Conceptual and Behavioral.

Directive. My previous boss’ style was directive. He used quick, decisive thinking to find solutions. If this is your style, you most likely have little tolerance for ambiguous ideas. You focus on the task at hand, use your knowledge and experience to formulate a conclusion and then, make your decision expeditiously. You most likely are an excellent verbal communicator. You may pride yourself on being rational and logical.

Analytical. Sometimes, this type of leader is known as laissez-faire based on the decision-making style. Is this your style? Typically, you will want to carefully analyze available data before arriving at a solution. You’ll consult with others on your team. You have a much higher tolerance for ambiguity — a lack of clarity is not a cause for concern with you. While your process takes longer, you are most often satisfied when all the “i’s” have been dotted and each “t” crossed.

Conceptual. Are you a big picture thinker who willingly takes necessary risks? This is your style if you’re already thinking about the ramifications of your decision in the future tense; you’ve visualized the outcome and the resulting opportunities. You’ve proven how good you are at making long-term decisions. You handle ambiguity well. And your style is much more socially oriented, meaning, you value input from others as you encourage their creative thinking and collaboration to find the right answer(s).

Behavioral. If this is you, your “behavior” is clearly more focused on the important relationships in your life or enterprise than on the task itself. You spend time evaluating the feelings of others as important elements of your decision-making process. You don’t tolerate ambiguity well. Your team’s consensus and your past successes have led you to become a rather persuasive communicator — you know, you have a track record of success. When you envision the outcomes of your choices, you often foresee how the decision will impact those all-important relationships you so value.

Regular readers know this blog space attends to ways healthy leaders focus on True North principles. In this case, how might we make Godly decisions that lead to the greatest good for His Kingdom’s sake?

We begin with a quote from French philosopher Auguste Comte, credited as the founder of positivism. His advice: the intellect should be the servant of the heart, but not its slave, suggests that while God expects that we use our brain and experience as collaborators in decision-making, other resources are also invaluable.

In our case, the primary helper is God’s Holy Spirit. I will not take the time to rehearse the argument I made in a previous blog of His indwelling power in the Christ-follower’s life. Rather, I’ll start with a reminder that the Creator of all things physically lives within us and desperately longs to PARTNER WITH US in all aspects of life — quite especially, in making healthy decisions.

Personally, I am situated on the precipice of making a major career decision. Potentially, it’s a choice between two excellent opportunities. Each offers variations on a positive and Godly theme. Both, on the surface so far, seem to likely draw on my (somewhat) unique combination of academic and professional credentials.

So yes, full disclosure, I am writing this in part as a cathartic exercise to help me move in the right direction. Let’s consider these factors as uniquely relevant to the True North leader’s decision-making process. And let me begin by acknowledging the ever-present need for communication with God — prayer. That is a given.

1. Discerning God’s will in this situation. How does that happen? By digging into what we have before us and what we know. What does the Bible say on this matter? Well, are you aware of evidence leading you to believe any part of your decision will have ungodly or anti-God results?

a. The Bible. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (see also Psalm 19:7–9). Books have been written on the topic. ‘nuff said.

b. God’s voice. He also reveals His will through the Spirit living within us. Sometimes He reminds us of appropriate Scripture passages. Or experiences He’s led us through already. Sometimes His “still small voice” offers new thoughts or insights we hadn’t known or considered. And sometimes, miraculously, He speaks out loud. Not often. But it’s happened too many times throughout history to deny the reality.

c. Godly counsel from others. First, these are friends known to be Godly and to hear from Him. Second, they must be trustworthy counselors, known for their discernment and wisdom. I like The Message’s take on Proverbs 15:22, Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.

2. Alignment — FIT. Ask yourself, will the results of my decision keep me or my company in alignment professionally, personally, spiritually? If so, you know you’re on the right path.

a. In terms of decisions impacting working with other companies or people, ask yourself: Is my heart, my understanding of God’s call on my life, and are my attitudes in congruence with the other group? Look for red flags — warning signals — that might indicate you might not be aligned.

b. Likewise, ask questions about FIT that explore if your experience, expertise and skills meet the need and the challenges that are being presented.

3. Stretching faith. Sometimes, a decision becomes a matter of taking a spiritual leap. When no red flags are in evidence, when personal interests or concerns are not factors, or when God’s voice is quiet (don’t mistake silence for indifference here), the True North leader may decide to “go for it.”

Rely on God’s promises in these situations. I happily trust the assurance in Romans 8:28, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

a. And check these promises as well: Isaiah 41:102 Thessalonians 3:3Deuteronomy 31:6.

4. Desires of your heart. I know. Sounds selfish, right? It might be. Or, it just may be another way God longs to communicate with you about this decision — through your own personality, proclivities and desires. Why else would He promise to give you the desires of your heart — IF — you take delight in the Lord. Excuse my reordering of Psalm 37:4. Let’s make sure to understand the context here. God is NOT your magic genie, sitting around waiting to grant you three wishes a day for life. No. The notion here is that we will find our heart’s desire as we delight in God Himself.

Alignment, again.

5. Trust. Let’s get honest. Truly trusting God may be one of the single most difficult jobs of the True North Leader.

a. Ask yourself, “who do I really trust?”

b. Then, “WHY” do I trust that person? What have they ever done (or not done) to deserve my utmost confidence?

c. Now, apply the same matrix to God. Has He ever lied to you? Cheated on you? Failed you in any way? Ever not fulfilled a promise?

d. God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19).

e. Perhaps the secret to truly trusting God is to agree with His plans and purposes and then, make them yours.

Agreeing with God. Sounds like a smart leadership move to me.

But what if my decision goes south? Things don’t turn out the way I planned or desired? What if, the deal goes sour, or I lose the job, or…? Ah, that’s when God’s grace and mercy kick in. When we fall off the rails, we fall into His loving and cushioned arms. He picks us up, dusts us off, and says, OK, lesson learned? Let’s go again!

Norm Mintle