Decision Values

It was a very promising season for the Ram’s high school basketball team.  They had a star player who became the most talked about in the small rural community.  The Rams were undefeated after 12 games into a 25 game season.  Then disaster struck.  Gordy, the star of the team, was diagnosed with a possible heart ailment.  The coach, Sam Whittaker, decided to sit him for the rest of the season.  The fans were outraged.

Gordy took the coach’s decision with good grace.  He became an assistant coach.  He dressed for every game, but knew he wouldn’t play.  The team didn’t react as well.  However, after five consecutive losses, things started looking up.  Players who looked to Gordy began to take their game to a new level.

The Rams went on to win the state championship.  At the end of the game, Whittaker was asked about his decision to sit Gordy for the rest of the season.  His response became the headlines on every sports page:  “I’ll never go against my decision values.”

Everyone has to make decisions.  In fact, some people get paid a lot of money to make decisions for their organizations.  All of us like to believe that our decisions are very rational and based upon the best information at the time.  In Sam Whittaker’s decision, the rational decision would have been to continue to play Gordy.  While there was some evidence that Gordy had a heart problem, it was inconclusive.  But Whittaker went with his decision values rather than making what seemed to be a more rational decision.  Whittaker valued player safety over wins and losses.

What might the decision values be based upon?  Some examples might include ethics, safety, compassion, security, caring, leading, and supporting.  We may implicitly think of these values when confronted with a decision to make.  But few of us have ever made the effort to write down the values we use in making a decision.  When these are not written down, we may be tempted to go against a value when faced with a tough decision.  Certainly, it would have been much easier for Whittaker to go against his decision values in his Gordy decision if he had not written his values down.

It’s interesting that we rarely see organizations or political leaders share their decision values as written statements.  As a result, those that they lead are often confused by the decisions that are made.  In fact, decisions might be viewed by others very cynically.

In Whittaker’s case, the state championship was a tremendous testimony to his decision values, and a lesson he shared with everyone who followed his team.  Documented decision values can be both inspiring and educational.

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“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”  — Roy Disney (Walt Disney’s older brother and financial backer)

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