Decision Making: Don’t Go Solo


Decision Making: Don’t Go Solo

Throw it up and shoot holes in it. If it lands and there’s anything left, there might be something to it. – Bob Smithson

One thing that makes us different from the typical company is that we are highly collaborative and make many decisions as a team. While this doesn’t imply decisions should be a democratic vote, bouncing ideas off other leaders or members of your team will produce better results. While one of us might come up with a good idea, it could be even better if we invite others to have input on it. After all, Proverbs 15:22 tells us: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Never isolate yourself when making big decisions. When a decision will impact people beyond your team, it’s wise to seek the counsel of other leaders. Don’t mistake changes to a process or product as small decisions, because they’re repeated hundreds of times and the long-term impact can be huge. And we should especially seek counsel when making people decisions. Because we develop deep relationships with our people, we need others to help us see a situation clearly and make the best decision for everyone involved.

Understand we are not promoting a formal approval process for decisions. Our goal isn’t a bureaucracy, but to simply find trustworthy people who will give us a different perspective, challenge us, and help us uncover where our biases are. Great leaders listen to and value trustworthy, diverse, opposing viewpoints.

In his typical, cut-and-dried style, Dave Ramsey explains “I have seen some really ugly babies, but never met a mom who thought they were ugly. You are emotionally blinded by your pride in your creation.” A third party can offer an objective perspective that may be impossible for someone closer to the decision to have.

Secure leaders are humble enough to admit they don’t have all the answers, and they value the opinions of others. They aren’t out to prove themselves. Some insecure leaders feel a burden to solve problems on their own, because they believe asking for help shows weakness, but in fact, the opposite is true. Not allowing others to weigh-in on a decision can also be a symptom of distrust. Asking for help shows courage, humility, trust, and respect.

The Harvard Business Review provides some wise observations and suggestions on this topic: “We’ve found that those who want to buck the pressures for conformity in a large organization, tend to have healthy egos. It’s important to recognize that and to not let that sense of being the rebel lead you to try to go it alone. Temper that ego by working with others to advance your ideas for change. You may even need to be prepared to relinquish ownership of your idea so that a broader group can implement the change. Making the idea community property will improve it as more people will be bringing fresh perspectives to it.

The concept of making an idea community property resonates in our highly collaborative environment. If we have a big vision for a change, we make it community property early! Don’t hide away until you can craft a fully fleshed out proposal. The longer we spend working on an idea in isolation the more defensive and resistant we become to input from others when we eventually unveil our grand vision. Fresh perspectives will only help us, and after all – it’s not about us.

Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right. – Ezra Taft Benson

Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. – Proverbs 18:2

Over time, leaders here must become verbal processors, where they express their ideas out loud and invite others to collaborate on them. This is more natural for some personalities, but it’s something we must all adopt.

Don’t misinterpret this as an argument for consensus.

When teams wait for consensus before taking action, they usually end up with decisions that are made too late and are mildly disagreeable to everyone. This is a recipe for mediocrity and frustration. Rick occasionally reminds us “This is not a democracy!” He obviously isn’t promoting tyranny, but the best leaders don’t make every decision by popular vote either. In some scenarios, a leader may need to take a bold stance that isn’t popular in order to move the organization forward.

We need to take time proportionate to the size of the decision. Big decisions should take big time, and little decisions should be done instantly. The more money involved, the more you should slow down. The more time involved as a result of the decision, the more you should slow down. The more people involved, the more you should slow down. But for goodness sake, when buying a pack of gum, just do it, and do it quickly – you are holding up the line!

Jim Collins explains that when leaders get hit with something that calls for a reaction – maybe an angry customer called – the natural instinct is to immediately react and do something. But what great leaders do is say “Wait a minute, before we do anything let’s zoom out for a moment.” They try to get above the battlefield, and ask “Before we act, how much time do we have before our risk profile is going to change? Are we talking minutes, hours, days, weeks, months?” Then they can make a decision in the context of that. After they establish a timeframe, they know what they have to work with and can then zoom back into the details.

Some decisions feel overwhelming. This may be because it is simply too big based on the facts we have, and we should find a way to break it into smaller decisions. We may need time to gather data, identify options, or simply uncover what the truth is in a situation. But keep this in mind: “To postpone a decision is really to decide for the status quo. In most decisions the key element is not so much knowing what to do but in living with the results.” Sometimes the cost of inaction is higher than the cost of making a mistake.

But ultimately, indecision can lead to stress. The paradox is that some of the most stressed people on the planet are people who are frozen by indecision. There is tremendous energy and peace that decision making brings. Even our teams are energized by a leader who can make the call well.


Cal Zant

Comments 10

    1. Post

      Thanks, Allison. I agree! This was a certainly a concept that I’ve learned, and didn’t understand or value when I joined this organization. But I now 100% believe to my core it’s the best way. I think the next post will be a video where I share my personal reflection on this principle. Ultimately I believe God prefers to work through community, so it’s rare that he’d give one person the “whole plan” or the “best idea.” He delights in seeing us work together, so I’ve recognize a common pattern where He may give one person part of the idea, but if they’ll be open-handed with it others in the group can bring the missing pieces and help transform it into something it couldn’t have been in isolation. That’s not us trying to be “inclusive” – it’s simply the best way. It does require us to be humble, and submit to one another, which isn’t easy – but worth it!


  1. I LOVE reading every article you put out. This one was particularly meaningful for me! But who am I kidding…every article I’ve read so far has left an big impression on me! Thanks for what you are doing/pursuing!!

    1. Post

      Ashley, I really appreciate the kind words. We’re just trying to share some of the things we feel like God has taught us in our business. It’s been a wild journey, and God continues to challenge us with more. It’s a progressive thing, at least in my experience. This lesson in particular was something I didn’t naturally do, but the Lord (and my team here) have been gracious with me … and at this point I can say I’m 100% committed to it. It wasn’t my natural style, but it’s become my habit. It’d be awkward for me to do it differently at this point.

      I do appreciate the encouragement! It’s good to know this is connecting.


  2. Wow! Incredible read, Cal!

    How often are good decisions left behind because an individual chose to wait for the details to be perfect? Sadly, I have struggled with this many times. I desire to bring forward the best that I can, but have lost opportunities for positive change because the “perfect details” weren’t there yet for that idea. What I have failed to remember in many decision making moments is, there are others that are willing to offer great insight that could bring a decision to a whole new level. Also, that positive insight and added accountability could actually bring those ideas to life and prevent that important decision from passing. This read was a great reminder that sometimes the only person getting in the way of positive change is myself most of the time.

    Thanks for sharing your heart on this. It really spoke to me today.

  3. Pingback: Reflecting on Decision Making | Kingdom at Work

  4. Brilliantly communicated wisdom, Cal! I’ve bookmarked it and emailed it to myself to reference again.

    I can see in retrospect that there have been times when my entrepreneurial characteristics have been both a blessing and a limitation. These words of wisdom you’ve shared here hit me hard, because they succinctly and rather completely summarize lessons learned from past mistakes.

    Sometimes that perspective helps us identify, recognize, and value wisdom in a more meaningful way. Thanks!

    1. Post

      Hey, Paul! I know you can personally attest to this being hard-earned wisdom, because you knew me at a time here when I really sucked at this! It has to be one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since working here. It’s one of those that takes time to really value and learn the art of applying it in different situations, but I can also say from experience it can be a HUGE game-changer in a number of ways.

      I do appreciate your kind words, and encouragement. It means a lot coming from you, Paul!


  5. Over time, leaders here must become verbal processors, where they express their ideas out loud and invite others to collaborate on them.

    This sentence blew me away. Seemingly this is a simple truths but I think it also has also a deep and hidden calling. It is very hard to think alone about a hard problem, hardly anyone can do it. But people can speak and speaking is a form of thinking, where others can correct you. Speaking in fact is a collaborative thinking when it is done right with respect, modesty and with courage. A leader’s responsibility is to provide the environment for collective thinking.

    Thank you Cal and God bless you!

    1. Post

      Szabolcs, I agree! That is is crux of that article, and I can say for sure it took me a long time and a lot of effort to become that way. I certainly wasn’t somebody that did that naturally, and that was pretty much the exact opposite of how I did this when I first joined the organization. But after several years of practice (and people giving me honest feedback in love when I didn’t do it), I can say it’s unnatural for me to do it any other way. I refuse to sit in isolation and think about an idea for very long at all before I go to someone and start talking out loud about it.

      Many times we refer to that as “throwing mud on the wall and seeing if anything sticks” or “throwing something up and shooting holes in it.” I’ve learned that if I don’t get it out of my head quickly, I become defensive when others try to make it better. But, if I get it out when it’s still half-baked (and half might be an overstatement), then I can be very free and open-handed with it. I know deep down collaboration brings about the best results. That’s how God’s Kingdom works best. So the discipline of not sitting with an idea for too long has become natural. I actually have found myself getting up out of my chair and walking out of my office to find someone to do the verbal processing with, and never even thought about it. I was literally out of my office door before I realized what I was doing.

      That is the exact opposite of the way that I came! I really mean that. When I first joined Betenbough Homes, I really believed that if you’d just gave me long enough to think about it, I’d come back with the best answer. I know that now that is never the case, and honestly that whole perspective is simply arrogant and prideful. God may give me a portion of what is ultimately the best solution, but almost never gives it all to one person. I think God does that on purpose, because he desires to see collaboration in his people. He loves to see his people work it out together. God certainly opened my eyes to a different way of doing this here, and it eventually became my habit.

      I will also say it takes a lot of the weight off the senior leaders shoulders to do it this way too. I think that’s why the Lord doesn’t want us to carry the responsibility that way. Being collaborative means you are spreading the weight over more shoulders, and I also believe you’ll reach better conclusions … every time. But I know it’s not natural for a lot of people. It takes commitment and honest feedback from friends to make it your default habit. It’s like a boxer who is trained to lean into a punch. How in the world can you make that your natural reaction. Lots of practice! But, the payoff is exponential in so many areas. Isn’t that the way it always is in the Kingdom?! 😉


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