To Do or Not Do: The Opportunity Question

Aug 18, 2022 | 1 comment

Several years ago, I was leading a ministry to youth in Central Asia, managing a community youth center with dozens of activities and thousands of opportunities.   

—One of the biggest challenges was that of deciding.   
—Should we start a soccer team for boys?   
—Should we go all-in on “BAM”?   
—Should we start a library?   
—What about a recording studio? Could we do a photography club?  

These are just a handful of opportunities we had in front of us. My problem in those days was saying “yes” to everything. 

The result was too much activity, half-baked ideas, and partially built towers.   

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?  

Luke 14:28

I know — Jesus is talking about discipleship here. But his words are also excellent leadership advice!

A key leadership skill is “deciding” 

Of the opportunities you have in front of you today, which one is the best choice? 

There are endless opportunities. How do you decide? 

Whether you are working independently or leading a team, cross-cultural workers need the ability to make excellent decisions. This can be trickier than it seems. 

How do we decide if this opportunity is right for our work? 

I wish I’d had this opportunity filter back in my community center days. Today, I use this tool with business and non-profit leaders in my coaching and consulting work

Try applying this filter to decide if the opportunity in front of you right now is the right choice.  

Does this opportunity align with your vision?

Never let novelty compromise your vision. Running after every fleeting opportunity may feel like being responsible. But, doing everything often means you’re doing nothing. Get very clear on the change you want to make in the world. What does the future look like because you, your organization, non-profit, or ministry exist? Make sure you only say “yes” to opportunities aligned with your vision. Anything unaligned isn’t really an opportunity.   

It’s a distraction.   

Reject it.    

Question: Do I have clarity with vision?

Does this opportunity align with my core strengths?

Opportunities are everywhere. But it does not suit you or your organization to embrace all of them. Know your strengths. Is this something you can do at a “world class” level? 

An organization may have a long history of Bible translation excellence. There is an opportunity to dig wells in a nearby community. The Bible translation organization should say “no” to digging wells and partner with an organization whose core-strengths are in community development.

Strengths discovery is an important part of your leadership journey. 

If an opportunity does not align with your core strengths or those of your organization, it might be best to pass this opportunity along to someone who is already good at this. 

Question: What are my core strengths? What can I or my organization be “world class” at?

Do we have the resources?

This obviously refers to the money question but is so much bigger. 

  • Do we have the money? 
  • Do we have the facilities? 
  • Do we have the technology? 
  • Do we have the tools? 

When building a plan for executing on an opportunity, it’s critical to think about your available resources, alongside the resources you need. Jesus draws from the reality of resource management when he talks about counting the cost to build the tower! If you cannot get the resources necessary to complete a project, maybe this opportunity isn’t for you right now. 

Question: If we move forward with this opportunity, what resources do we have? What will we need? How do we gain what’s lacking?

Do we need a team?

My parents raised me to be independent, which means I typically operate under the assumption of doing things myself. Don’t make that assumption. No single person has the gifts, strengths, or fortitude to “do it all.” Don’t be a one-person show. Taking on new opportunities often means bringing on new team members. Don’t be afraid to do this. If you need a team, but cannot build a team, this opportunity may not be for you. 

Question: What team members need to be in place before we proceed? 

Do we have the systems?

This is about operations and infrastructure. “Systems” sounds ominous to some. Don’t be afraid. Systems don’t have to be complicated. In fact, they should be simple! Here are some questions to ask about this: 

—How will we measure our success? 
—What will be our system of accountability and responsibility?
—Are there standard operating procedures?

Question: What systems will I need to create to proceed? 

Do we have the story?

Whether you’re talking to donors, supervisors, or a team, the narrative is important. It’s not about “making things up”. Every opportunity needs a story. If there is no emotional connection to your stakeholders, it’s tough to get support and agreement. If the opportunity aligns with vision, you (and your team!) should be able to craft a compelling story of why and how this opportunity is a great idea. 

Question: How do we talk about this new opportunity with our supporters and our team? 

Don’t say “yes” to every opportunity. 
“No” is possibly the most strategic word. 

Next time an opportunity presents itself to you, use this filter. 

Does this align with our vision and core strengths? 
A “no” here means reject

Do we have the resources?  
Do we have the team?  
Do we have the systems?  
Do we have the story?  
Make certain you have what you need before saying “yes”! 

This process will give you the liberty to pursue only the best opportunities. 

And potentially save you from too many half-finished towers.

Photo by Darya Tryfanava on Unsplash

Bernie Anderson

Empowering next-generation leaders, business and non-profit consultant, writer, and speaker.



1 Comment

  1. M. L. Anderson

    Great insights. Great article and encouragement.


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