Gathering options without creating obligations

The next time someone tells you what to do, ask them if they are prepared to take responsibility for any negative consequences. If that doesn’t soften their tone, chances are they are an idiot. Ignore them.

I’m tossing around the idea of creating a leader’s council. A group of people from the nonprofit I lead that offers insights regarding strategic decisions. I’m asking them for options. I’m not asking them to tell me what to do. Options are considerations with pros and cons. Options are not directives.


Asking others what you should do begins a potentially adversarial conversation where someone wins and another loses.

The answer to, “What should I do?” is an obligation.

More not less

Let everyone know they aren’t the only ones in the feedback processes. Ask those giving options if they know others you could ask. Look for options from inside and outside your organization.

Be Prepared

The more options you seek the more you’ll be saying no. Don’t seek more options if you make consensus decisions. If members of your organization believe leaders are puppets you have bigger problems than making decisions.

Less not more

Include more not less while seeking options. Include less not more in the final decision. Effective decisions require a single point of accountability and responsibility.

Which option

Most challenges have more than one solution. Mission, vision, and values are the basis for all strategic decisions. Decision makers ask which option:

  1. Best fulfills mission
  2. Fully aligns with values
  3. Expresses momentum toward vision

Don’t bother

Effective decision-makers selflessly act with the best interest of the organization in mind. If you’re a selfish, self-promoting leader, everyone knows that gathering options is a façade.


Have you asked for “advice” and found yourself obligated to follow that advice? What did you do?

How do you gather options without obligating yourself to follow every option presented?


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