The Clarity in The Gray

Jan 3, 2017, Written by Sue Miley

clarity

As I get older, I realize more and more that little is black and white. There is just a lot of gray in the world. Navigating as a business owner can be frustrating in all of the uncertainty. It can cause gray hair when it comes to making decisions. And as a Christian in business, we are constantly challenged with the ways of the world in contrast to the ways of Jesus. This contrast makes things seem ambiguous, when in actuality, following Christ in business just looks different.

I have several examples from my world:

I used to think you should never hire someone who is over-qualified or taking a cut in pay. If they are willing to do that, something must be wrong. They must have done something at a previous job I didn’t know about or they are burned out. Things just didn’t add up. Then, as I became a Christian, it became clear that money is not everyone’s key motivation in life. I also learned that if there was a reason that the candidate wanted less responsibility, it didn’t mean that the person wouldn’t perform excellently in the role they were committing to. I changed my whole life and career to follow Christ and to recover from severe burnout. Yes, I worked less hours. But each hour I worked had my best effort. Why? Because I wanted everything I did to glorify God. I actually learned this before my own personal experience occurred and I was very thankful because it was one of the factors that gave me the courage and confidence to cut back.

Another example that feels like gray at times is when you get varying advice all from sources you trust. As a coach and counselor, I am sort of in the advice business. When a client says they are also seeing another counselor or coach, I have learned to caution them up front. There is more than one way to do just about anything. If you ask 10 people, you will likely get 10 different answers. The principle I have learned is that all 10 could potentially work. Where the problem comes in is the confusion you have trying to discern between the different suggestions. And usually, with a multitude of advice at your fingertips, you will try to hedge and merge the several solutions into one. The merged solution may be something that is ineffective. You may feel like you received poor advice, but it could have been that you just messed it up by not making a clear decision to follow one path.

Sometimes as Christians we get confused with what faith in business should look like. Many of us feel that as a Christian in business, we have to be nice at all costs. After all, Jesus says to love everyone. But He also says that a Father disciplines out of love for His child. Letting employees or vendors walk all over you so you can seem “loving” is a recipe for disaster in your business. At the same time, being a Christian in business calls us to show grace to others. Where, in the past, if someone had an issue on their background check for employment, I may not have hired them, now it isn’t quite so cut and dry.

How Do We Make Good Decisions In Subjective World

What it comes down to is that there is a ton of subjectivity in the world. This is gray. Yet, a business killer is indecisiveness. It wastes time. It frustrates your team. Sometimes waiting actually causes problems in addition to the issue being decided on. Here are a few things I do to try to improve my decision-making in this cloudy, fallen world:

  1. Gather information quickly and efficiently.  Having information does make decision-making much easier. I try to give myself a timeline, though. I will get as much information together this week, but by Friday I will decide based on the information I have.
  2. Use your gut.  Sometimes you have to trust your intuition. Obviously, use your judgement on the impact of the decision ahead of you. If a wrong decision has minimal consequences, just decide. If it is a huge decision, sometimes you still have to just decide, but you may spend more time putting together action plans that can ensure success.
  3. Get input from a couple of trusted advisors.  Usually it is better to ask people that have relevant experience to the problem. Ultimately, you need to take in the advice and use that information to help you to formulate your own unique plan or decision. If not, you may be trying to merge all answers into one and that doesn’t usually work.
  4. Look to Scripture.  This is especially helpful for the grace part of decision-making in business. There are many times that I need Jesus to help me make sure I am doing the right thing. Especially when it comes to people. We are called to love others…just discerning how to love is not always so simple. We all need Jesus to help with this.
  5. Pray.  Prayer in business is one of the most important things we can do. If you ever wonder if God cares about your business, He does. He cares about all of our lives. He is the One who gave us our gifts and talents that we are using in our business. He also has a plan for each of us. Now, we just have to remember that we are not the ones in control anyway and to pray first.

I don’t think that the world is going to suddenly change and that everything will be clear…black or white, objective, or always just. We have to move forward, though. We can’t hide from the ambiguity and have our business survive.

So now that I am older, I try not to fight it so much. I try to do some or most of the things listed above. But in the end, it is through Jesus that we will find clarity in the gray.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.