Making decisions

Mostly it’s not that there are too many choices, but how best to filter them. Here’s a great test.


Several years ago I read a great book called “Kids are worth it!: Giving your child the gift of inner discipline” by Barbara Coloroso.


This book has served me very well as a parent giving me guidance in how to raise self-aware and self-disciplined children. In particular, I learnt by heart the following questions which I ask myself whenever I make decisions, and in turn have taught my children to ask whenever they make decisions.


The “Three Decision Questions” are:


  1. Is it life threatening?
  2. Is it morally threatening?
  3. Is it unhealthy?


For instance, when my then seven-year-old son asked if his two-year-old brother could get up on the cubby house roof with him, I suggested he ask himself the Three Decision Questions. He did so and decided it wasn’t a good idea for his brother to get up on the cubby house roof after all, for all the right reasons you would come up with. The good thing was that I didn’t have to tell him what they were – he came up with the reasons by himself.


The aim of the Three Decision Questions is to give children ownership and control of their decisions. As they get older I will have less and less control over how they choose to live their lives and what paths they take, so I hope that the Decision Questions help them make the right choices and decisions.


As we all know they may be pressured by peers to try drugs or do other things that may cause harm to themselves or others. My hope is that they can stand up for themselves and choose wisely and well. While what they do when I am there is important, it is what they do when I am not there that is most important.


So what has all this got to do with business or making sales? How can these questions apply to our roles in business?


I happen to think the Three Decision Questions can serve us very well, especially when all of us could be tempted to do things that are potentially life threatening, morally threatening or unhealthy.


Just think of some of the recent business and financial collapses. Or the sub-prime fiasco in the US. Maybe if those in charge of sales and the businesses concerned had applied the Three Decision Questions we may not be in such a state today.


Now I know some people may be bristling as they think “what’s wrong with that? It’s a free market. They can sell to whomever they like. Buyer beware and all that.” Sure these people are entitled to their opinions, however I just happen to think that deliberately going after victims instead of prospects and making money at someone else’s expense is wrong, that’s all. It’s not life enhancing, moral or healthy for anyone.


As a sales person, leader and business owner, I choose to apply the Three Decision Questions to my business dealings and found them to be very helpful when choosing who to do business with and how to do business with people. My team and I also use the Three Decision Questions to review our product offerings and work practices to see if they meet ethical and environmental standards.


Do we get it right all the time? Of course not. However, I have found that by using the Three Decision Questions it makes things very clear about where we stand, what we stand for and how we like to operate.


The Three Decision Questions support findings from around the world that more and more people want to work with others (suppliers, partners and customers) in a spirit of cooperation, consultation and respect, not competition or deceit. They want to know that you are not potentially life threatening, morally threatening or unhealthy to deal with.


In a world that is now asking for each of us to stand up and be counted, and declare our position on sustainability at all levels, maybe the Three Decision Questions could serve us well in helping us choose the right path for us and our businesses, and in turn help us be more successful and profitable for all the right reasons.


But rather than me tell you what to think, I’d rather you decide for yourself.




Sue Barrett is founder and managing director of BARRETT, a boutique consultancy firm. Sue is an experienced consultant, public speaker, coach and facilitator. Sue and her team are best known for their work in creating high performing people and teams. Key to their success is working with the whole person and integrating emotional intelligence, skill, knowledge, behaviour, process and strategy via effective training and coaching programs. Click here to find out more

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