Consider The 3rd Option

by | Sep 12, 2014

I hate wasting time. I think most people do.  That’s why far too often people leave staff meetings frustrated.

There are too many meetings where time is being wasted by teams debating between two choices in trying to make a decision.

Besides the typical culprits of bad meeting management, I propose that teams to often narrow their decision options between only two options.

While leading at a summer camp, a few issue I can remember debating for long periods of time while weighing only two options include:

  • Option 1: Fire the person even though there was only 10 days left on their contract for the summer.
  • Option 2: Don’t fire them.


  • Option 1: Purchase the land even though is more then you need or could comfortably afford.
  • Option 2: Don’t purchase the land.


  • Option 1: Have the keynote speaker open and close the event which is what normally happens at this retreat.
  • Option 2: Have the Keynote Speaker only open or close the event.


But, time and time again, I’ve noticed that when my favorite little leadership axiom is employed, a much more creative and wise decision is eventually reached.

Consider the 3rd option.

When I would realize we hadn’t yet talked about a 3rd option, I would call the team’s attention to the axiom.  And then, we had the freedom to think outside the box we had placed ourselves into.

For example, here the solutions that worked for us from the above debates.

  • Suspend the person for a week without pay. This allowed them enjoy the end of season adjourning experience with the rest of the camp staff but still upheld the integrity of the organizations policies.
  • Went to the seller and asked them to divide up the property to the portion we needed.
  • Have two Keynote Speakers. One to open, and one to close.

Next time you are leading or participating in a meeting, and the team seems locked into choosing one of two options, put some energy into finding the 3rd option.

It can take time to get ideas flowing from people, but once you give your team freedom to think creatively, you might be surprised by what they come up with.

The 3rd option has resulted in the vast majority of decisions and programs that people rave about at the camp as being “genius”. Or, people would say to us; “how do you all come up with this stuff?”

In fact, now I refuse to make a decision unless we have explored at least the 3rd option…sometime more.

Give it a try. Avoid the pitfall thinking of…

  1. “If my team improves on my initial idea, someone will loose confidence in me.”
  2. “A leader’s job is to make the tough call and make it fast. I don’t have to explore the 3rd option.”
  3. “There is no 3rd option here.”

Now, there have been times the 3rd options have been lame. But, the vast majority of the time…the 3rd option takes us to the next level.

By the way, have you read Axiom by Bill Hybels? Great leadership book. An absolute must read for anyone series about leadership.

Action Steps:

  1. List a couple decision you are trying to make right now where you don’t feel you have a 3rd option. Come up with a few 3rd options for each decision area.
  2. Let your team know that from now on, you want three options to consider on all decision.
  3. Talk to your spouse about the 3rd option axiom when setting up your next date night or in a parenting decision you are wrestling with.