I used to pride myself on my decisive decision making. I guess it has something to do with my personality. According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I am an ENTJ. Wikipedia reminds us that “ENTJs tend to be fiercely independent in their decision making, having a strong will that insulates them against external influence” and that they “tend to have a high degree of confidence in their own abilities …” God in His mercy showed me I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was.
A number of bad judgement calls I made taught me that proud, individualistic, rapid decision making could be fatal. A recent article by James O’Toole and Warren Bennis confirms this. They cite a 1980s study by Robert Blake and James Moutin on NASA’s findings on the human factors involved in airline accidents that found that:
The stereotypical take-charge “flyboy” pilots, who acted immediately on their gut instincts, made the wrong decisions far more often than the more open, inclusive pilots who said to their crews, in effect, “We’ve got a problem. How do you read it?” before choosing a course of action… (Moreover) crew members who had regularly worked with the “decisive” pilots were unwilling to intervene — even when they had information that might save the plane. (“What’s Needed Next: A Culture of Candor,” Harvard Business Review, June 2009, 56)
In other words, not only do the decisive types make more errors, their style of working discouraged people from giving them needed information that could have saved lives.
The Harvard Business Review points out what had been taught a long time ago in the book of Proverbs where we are told, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12 TNIV) and that “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers” (Proverbs 11:14 TNIV).
In an information age, no one has the capacity to know all that needs to be known. More than ever we need inclusive, collaborative decision making at all levels. This comes easier for some than for others. The ENTJs of this world will still feel tempted to go with their gut feelings, confident of their ability to make the right calls every time, defensive when others give contrary views. We need to learn, hopefully sooner rather than later, that we need the input of others, just as others need our input, to make wise decisions.
I have just finished two sessions of strategic planning with my church leaders. I celebrate the many good decisions made because we listened to each other, with all helping to create an atmosphere where all were encouraged to contribute. I recalled some good conversations I had with Bernice over lunch today that helped me gain key insights into some people and some situations. Daily my enlightened eyes see evidence of the value of patience, of waiting for more information before I make a decision, and why “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” (James 1:19 TNIV).
Those who know me know that I still need a lot of work in my approach to decision making, and in how I relate to people. It took me a long time to realise that some people were actually afraid of me because of the way I come across when I am involved in a discussion. When I remember, I tell myself to smile more, with smiles that come from the heart. Sometimes I try to defuse situations with humour. But if I really believe that I need the input of others to make good decisions, I need to create an atmosphere where people are willing and able to share things with me, especially things they think I may not like to hear, a situation that requires “a willing listener and a courageous speaker” (O’Toole and Bennis, 58).
As I grow older, I see many things more clearly. I am clearer about areas of my life that needs to change while recognising that I may have less energy to make those changes. Trusting in the Lord and with the help of my friends, I need to make the effort. Sometimes, as the NASA study shows, there are lives in the balance.