3 Vital Questions to Make Sure the Right Decision Isn’t Wrong

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QUESTION: When can a right decision be the wrong decision?

ANSWER: When the leader hasn’t asked all the necessary questions.

When it comes to decision-making, “leadership 101” asks, “Is this the right decision?” But more effective leaders go further and ask at least three more vital questions.

For example, a church I visited a few years ago had seen a good decision blow up in their face because they hadn’t asked these questions.

As part of an information strategy a decision had been made to purchase a dozen large flatscreen television monitors. These would be strategically placed as information kiosks throughout the facility.

But from the time the decision was reached it took several months before the monitors were ordered, delivered and installed.

During that time a lot had changed.

The economic downturn had hit, many in the church had lost their jobs and investments, giving in the church plummeted, and several key staff were laid off.

And then the television monitors turned up.

And so, in an environment of discouragement over the layoffs and concerns over the church’s finances, the congregation showed up for church and were greeted by a dozen new large screen plasma televisions.

The congregation was outraged, and the church leadership suffered a credibility hit.

Was the decision to buy the monitors the right one? Probably. But that’s besides the point.

Important decisions need to be run through a filter of three vital questions.


1.   Is this the right timing for this decision?

Many a correct decision can go horribly wrong if the timing and circumstances change. Effective leaders pay as much attention to the timing of the decision as they do the decision itself.

2.   What are the optics of the decision?

Optics matter. Effective leaders obsess over how a decision is perceived and they’ll go to great lengths to make sure the optics of a good decision are properly managed.

3.   How will the decision be communicated?

A decision like this needed to be over-communicated weeks in advance. Simply having the congregation show up to see these monitors already installed was just asking for trouble. Effective leaders know that the bigger the decision, the more important the communication strategy.

The next time you face a key decision, ask your leadership team to wrestle with these questions.

Otherwise you may indeed find that the right decision turns out to be very, very wrong.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Global Leadership Network. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave, Willow & Olive and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.


  1. What I find challenging about your post, Scott, is the optics part. I think you are right. But somehow I believe that sincere leaders shouldn’t have to worry about public perception so much.

    As I think about it, the idea that we shouldn’t have to worry, hints at superiority and arrogance, as well as, a lack of accountability.

    Thanks for your insights.

  2. I appreciate your comment Dan.

    The question regarding “optics” is challenging isn’t it. On the one hand effective leaders shouldn’t be constantly checking public opinion polls to guide their leadership. On the other hand, being aware of the optics of a decision must be considered. “Credibility” is one of the change chips leaders carry in their pockets. I believe that when we don’t pay attention to optics we can lose some of these chips (which we might need later on).

    Thanks again for weighing in Dan.

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