“After Further Review” – Why Leaders Sometimes Change Their Minds
I have a friend whose father is one of the NFL’s most respected and tenured officials. Gerry Austin, now retired, officiated hundreds of games in his twenty five year career, and, in a job that is often thankless and demands split-second decisions that can result in divisive backlash, Mr. Austin was respected by players, coaches, and fans.
Like Gerry Austin, leaders are constantly placed in positions to make judgment calls, and expected to get it right! But, like any NFL official or any leader will tell you, “We don’t always get it right.”
Several years ago the NFL established a rule allowing for certain plays to be placed “under review.” Using the benefit of video technology and multiple camera angles, an official can go to the sidelines, review the play as many times as necessary, view the play from various angles, and then conclude what the correct call should be.
When the official comes back onto the field he turns on his microphone, addresses the people in the stadium and states whether the call on the field stands or is overturned. Whatever the final decision, the official’s first words will inevitably be: “After further review…”
Sometimes the initial call and the correct call are two separate things.
Changing your mind requires humility. As a young leader I feared that changing my mind about a decision would cause others to perceive me as an ineffective or indecisive leader. However, I have learned through the years that, if I would be willing to reevaluate and alter a previous decision, I am building on a much more stable foundation. My track record for right decisions improves significantly.
Wisdom is willing to be put to the test; but foolishness demands unquestioned loyalty.
My most recent example of changing my mind was announced last night in our youth ministry. Having had a youth leadership transition back in May, I have chosen to give my personal attention and leadership to our youth ministry for the last seven months. Not only do I count it as a privilege to give my life to the next generation; I see it as a call.
Over the course of those seven months I have assessed and evaluated our youth ministry. To use the NFL analogy, I went to the sidelines with the Lord and asked Him to replay some of our decisions over the last few years from a variety of angles and perspectives.
That process was both encouraging and enlightening. Encouraging because I became more convinced than ever that many of my initial decisions (gut-instinct calls) were accurate. Enlightening because I recognized at least one decision that needed to be changed.
So, last night, I gathered the teenagers around me, like a father gathers his children for story time, and shared three of the ten commitments (conclusions) I have come to, in regards to our youth ministry. One of those commitments is to provide our youth ministry with an accurate and prophetic sense of their personal and corporate identity. That’s when I announced that we are changing the name of our youth group back to Oneighty.
(To give some context, when Carrie and I came to New Hope Worship Center as youth pastors, we eventually brought the youth group into the name Oneighty, a name and identity that remained for many years until I initiated a change over a year ago. The decisions to change the name “from” and then “back” to Oneighty were mine. Although I had good reasons for the decision to change the name over a year ago, the reevaluating process gave me better perspective, and eventually brought me to a better conclusion.)
As a pastor whose tenure has spanned two full decades in the same church, I must be willing to go back and review my own previous decisions; otherwise, I will slowly lose the sharp edge of visionary leadership that compels us forward to that which is greater.
As leaders we make the best decisions we can make, based on the information and perspective we have in the moment. And, frankly, most of the time, we’re right. But I would never want to suffer a loss simply because I refused to place the call on the field under review.