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Stop Circling in Decisions

decision making Apr 19, 2023

Is decision making causing you to circle the SAME mountains over and over again? Leading in ministry means we often make group decisions with teams, boards, volunteers, or members. These kinds of decision-making processes can be the toughest to manage with frequent opportunities to get stuck along the way to deciding!

A few reasons for circling in our group decisions

  1. We are all unique people with unique perspectives. Some people are “show me the data”, others have a gut-sense of what is wrong and move right to brainstorming. These differences often create conflict that keeps groups from moving forward.
  2. We miss the root of the problem. The necessity of quick decisions can loop the group into series of quick fixes. If groups simply keep addressing the symptoms, the problem will spring back around to be addressed over and over again until the real problem surfaces. 
  3. We get lost in analysis paralysis. If we make one decision it creates opportunities or challenges that need to be addresses. We start noticing all the linkages until the web of decisions gets so confusing no one can decide. 

A few strategies to stop circling decisions

Create Space

A simple solution to differences in ways people decide is to set a timer to create space for the different needs in making decisions. Set a time slot for data collection and diagnosing the problem. Then, stop. Move to dreaming and brainstorming and discussing options. Then, stop. Move to analyzing options and deciding what to do. Then, stop. Once you decide you can plan it out, assign responsibilities and follow up. 

Parking Lot

There are obvious linkages from one decision to the next. Often, your group is distracted by trying to address multiple issues. This lack of focus will keep you circling. So, grab a notebook or a flip chart and document other issues that come up, but you are not ready to address. Stay focused on the decision that needs to be made and commit to come back to the parking lot list. Set a date to do so or these parking lot items can get missed and will circle back into the discussion to thwart yet another group process.

Ask Questions

We want to think facilitating a decision-making meeting is as simple as writing up an agenda and putting a star by the things that need decisions. However, the secret to effective group decision making is facilitating the dialogue well -- asking questions that draw out the data, navigate conversation that will dig deep when necessary and facilitate forward movement for the group. Every leader can and should learn the skills to asking good questions and navigating conversations to know when to camp on a specific item and when to send it to the parking lot. When to notice that someone isn’t speaking out and how to wrap up the long-winded teammate to move the process forward. 

No More Circles

Becoming a coaching leader – a blackbelt facilitator of conversations – takes practice. It is the best way to navigate a meeting agenda and effectively facilitate group decisions, so they don’t keep sending you in circles. 

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