Making a Decision—Even in the Face of Opposition

The ability to see things from multiple perspectives…and the conviction to distill all those viewpoints into one decision.

Both are vital leadership traits.

So is the willingness to endure the inevitable criticism that comes from those who disagree with your decision. The Latin for the word “decision” means “to cut off.”

Saying “yes” on any one subject, whether it’s making a spending decision or instituting a policy change or choosing whether to accept a legal settlement rather than pursue litigation, inherently means saying “no”—or cutting off—other possible courses of action.

Making decisions is something we do all the time. Consciously or unconsciously, and on matters tiny and momentous, we are (most decidedly) decision-rendering individuals.

Most of the time, those decisions are made without discussion or fanfare. Even so, over time, the impact of those decisions shows up—in the form of our health, our relationships, our business affairs, and in so many other facets of our lives.

Serving on a government unit’s board means making decisions on the heels of varying amounts of discussion and debate. And, at times, those decisions are accompanied by more than a little fanfare—or even significant blowback from those who dispute your action.

That goes with the territory. And it shouldn’t trigger hand-wringing over how to mollify the naysayers—so long as any given decision is based on sound reasoning, and is in alignment with the board’s priorities and values.

Of course, not everything can be a top priority. Not everything under the sun can make your short-list of core values.

So that’s where the real roll-up-your-sleeves work occurs: during the soul-searching, goal-setting stage of determining what is most important to the organization overall. In the case of District 200 Board of Education, it’s a matter of managing those big-picture decisions on “those things that are best” for Oak Park and River Forest as a whole.

Among the crucial questions that I ponder currently in my role as President of the Oak Park Public Library Board—and which are readily transferable to service on the D200 Board:

~ Is this consistent with our strategic plan?

~ Does this reflect effective stewardship of our money, our staff’s time, and any other resources that may be affected?

~ Does this promote engagement with the community or, at least, with a significant portion of the community?

~ Will this enhance the learning process?

~ Will this move us toward becoming the community that we aspire to be?

Three years ago, the Board of Education approved a five-year strategic plan that provides a blueprint for decision-making. If given the privilege of serving on the board after the April 4th election, I look forward to carrying out the fine principles embodied there.

It will be relatively easy when the decisions are popular and in the clear majority. But I am prepared to remain steadfast on those occasions when it may meet with resistance from others who either want to push the strategic plan to the side, pay it lip service, or lay claim to an alternative interpretation of what form the high school’s strategic plan should take.

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