The Blue Roof Principle: How to Make the Tough Choices in Business

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

We make thousands of decisions every single day, yet most people hate making them. Lack of clarity and fear play a major role with indecision, leading to procrastination and anxiety. Decisions mean taking action and taking action means consequences, both positive and negative—a terrifying thought to most of us.  

Yet, the ability to be decisive is one of the key roles of effective leadership. 

 “Anyone can make the easy decisions, it’s the hard ones that build character.”  – Fanny 

Leaders are often caught in a conundrum. They must decide what to do for the good of an entire team. Sometimes the choices are easy, sometimes they are not. So, how do we make the tough choices, the choices whose consequences will impact multiple people or entire organizations? 

When I have to make key decisions in my organization, I apply what I call The Blue Roof Principle. Most lessons we learn and apply in business generally start from personal experience, and The Blue Roof Principle is no exception. In this story, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. 

As part of the teachings of The Blue Roof Principle, the question posed is, “At what cost, would you push forward to get your way?” 

You Either Fight for Principle or People

Meet Betsy and Alex.  

Betsy and Alex dreamt for nearly 40-years on what their forever home would look like. They planned every aspect of the home; the guest’s experience the moment they drive up, the parking of the car, the entry walkway, and the greeting at the oversized double front doors. It was certain to be magnificent. 

Betsy and Alex knew there would be challenges along the way. They were building in a unique neighborhood with very strict adherence to building codes and materials. Because Betsy and Alex were forward thinkers, they created a plan to include every detail of their dream home; from fixtures to furniture, flooring to wall coverings. This included a repeating color theme for this dream home. 

Spoiler alert: that color was blue.

Knowing the requirements and wanting to abide by the rules, Betsy and Alex worked with their builder, Syd, to make sure everything would be approved before construction began. After months of review and consideration, the governing body approved the entire plan including outdoor paint, hardscape materials, roofing, window placement, and driveway access. Their dream home was coming to life. 

The Blue Roof Conundrum

One day, however, Betsy and Alex received a call from Syd with some disappointing news. After the roof was nearly 50% installed, the governing body decided the individual who approved it had made a mistake. A blue roof did not fit the neighborhood’s overall concept and design.

From a pragmatic perspective, all the approvals had been garnered months in advance and samples of the exterior color scheme were displayed on the job site for convenience and easy reference. It was hard for Betsy and Alex to understand exactly how this shift in approval could have happened. 

What was the cost to get the blue roof? There were many varying layers of consideration that had to be taken into consideration. For the most part, Betsy and Alex did not want to start life in a forever home that was going to be the center of attention and controversy. Would there be hidden consequences for the individual who approved the roof color? Would the governing body lose trust in the builder if they went forward with the blue roof?

Choices and Consequences

Betsy and Alex considered this impasse an opportunity to be an act of leadership and considered the consequences of their decision for everyone involved. Although the blue roof was intended to be an amazing addition to the home, in the end, it wasn’t worth the fight. 

The energy and resources were not the issue. Betsy and Alex’s ability to follow through was not the issue either. Betsy and Alex thoughtfully considered the damage to the others involved to be too great should a battle over the roof wage on. They simply chose to fight for the people involved in the situation and not the roof, and they chose correctly. 

People over Principle 

All in all, winning the blue roof was not the fight. Instead, it was the opportunity to make a leadership choice that placed others’ interests above their own. Although this seemed like the right thing to do, it wasn’t the easiest, but it was for the best.  

Today, Betsy and Alex enjoy their forever home. They made a choice to stand by a transformative principle that focused on the needs of others first, then their own. They settled for their second choice because it benefited all involved. Their relationships within the community are now stronger today because they chose to put people first when they moved in.  It was a big win in the long run, and choosing people over principle will always be the winning choice.  

Leadership out of the “Blue”

Now, I ask you … what is your “blue roof”? We all come across these tough decisions in life and business. What is something that you are willing to fight for just for the sake of winning? At what cost are you willing to fight? Is that “thing” you want worth your reputation and how you will show up each and every day for others? We all have a blue roof in our lives, but I urge you to examine what you’re fighting for and choose the people. Every time.   

Share the “Blue Roof” in your business below.  How do you make hard decisions? When did you have to make a hard decision and what was the outcome? I look forward to hearing your stories!