How Can A 3-Word Question Improve Your Decisiveness And Team Performance?

Lison Mage
6 min readSep 25

In front of the goal, do you pass or shoot?

Although the question lacks context, you might have already unconsciously picked an answer. Some of our mental habits often rationalise this immediate decision with: “I’m more a team player” or “I’m a go-getter”.

Pass or shoot. How to choose?

At its core, football is a team sport, with 11 players banding together to defeat their opponents. Passing is, by definition, a team move and seems a prime choice, but if nobody tries to score, our team is unlikely to win.

What then?

Should we look at roles? The strikers shoot and the others pass? In this case, if a defender is in a position to score, should she still pass the ball to a striker because that’s their “job”? With this approach, you might end up being benched and spend the remainder of the season making lemonades.

“Pass or shoot?” is an exciting question and concept I work on with teams to elevate their performance. It encapsulates an often-overlooked skill: decisiveness.

You might be a world-class midfielder, capable, while your eyes closed, to land the ball with a millimetre precision; there will come a time when shooting is the best course of action. Passing then becomes an anti-team play as we deflect our responsibility and hand over the burden to our colleagues.

Imagine, as a technical lead, the quality of your deliveries helps you to establish trust with your client. As you are having a conversation, he opens up about a potential need that could result in a new contract (or at least an extension) and starts asking about pricing. Should you stop him in his tracks, telling him that he should engage with the sales representative or keep listening and give a bulk part estimate?

Pass or shoot?

You are not in sales. There are processes. You cannot give a quote like that. On the other hand, the client came to you and asked your opinion about his issue.

There is an opportunity to foster your relationship and progress a new lead. Risky? Possibly, but nothing forces you to shoot “straight”, curved balls can also score. For instance, we can add to our…

Lison Mage

I help people & teams lead strategic change and make better decisions. Read my book on Overthinking: https://lisonmage.com/act-before-you-overthink-buy/