Apply HubSpot’s 3-Step Formula for Making Hard Decisions

Beatriz Boavida
Apr 29, 2024
6 min read


That is the number of conscious decisions an average person makes per day. Luckily for us, most of these are trivial and require little mental effort. 

Nevertheless, it is the hard decisions that typically bother us the most. And we have come to realise that people are not as good at making decisions as they want to believe.

A Forbes study even concluded that 98% of companies are not good at decision-making.

While growing HubSpot, Dharmesh Shah (co-founder and CTO) has experienced a varied range of poor decision-making – his company used to belong to those 98%. But with time (and errors), they have mastered the art of decision-making breaking into the top 2%.

In this article, we are sharing HubSpot's 3-step approach to making great strategic decisions, so you can easily apply it in your team.

Common obstacles leaders face when making decisions

Making poor decisions is the norm but not the aim.

Dharmesh Shah realised there are 3 main obstacles leaders (even himself) fall into when trying to make great decisions:

HubSpot’s 3-step decision framework

Inspired by Amazon’s “Disagree and Commit” principle, HubSpot founders created an approach that better adapted to their culture and promoted a stronger cohesion within their team members. 

Here is HubSpot's decision-making principle: Debate, Decide, and Unite.


In this phase, you want to get those rock-solid arguments about the different possible solutions to your company’s problem.

Let’s face it, as your company grows, decisions become harder as trade-offs become tougher. Hence, you should take time to debate the matter as it will help you gain a clear vision of the problem from multiple angles.

The debate phase is not about each person presenting their preferred option, it is about people sharing well-thought-through arguments.


When there is a pressing decision to be made, leaders often opt to reach a decision by consensus. This means each person votes and the majority wins.

However, at HubSpot, they handle the decision-making process differently. They choose in advance one particular person to make the decision. So, on the day of the meeting, everyone clearly knows who the decision maker is, and that person’s job is to take the information shared in the debate to reach the best solution.

To choose the right person to make the decision, Dharmesh Shah urges you to ignore titles and instead pick “someone that is close to the issue and has both the context and the competency to evaluate the options, listen to the debate, and ultimately make the right decision for the organization”.


Once your team reaches a decision, you want to ensure buy-in from everyone, especially the dissenters. You must work towards aligning your team in the desired direction.

Let everyone come together, take ownership of the outcomes, and commit to the plan.

This phase is essential to avoid doubt, feelings of betrayal, second-guessing, and poor support from the ones who disagree with the decision. 

How to apply the Debate, Decide, Unite strategy

Here is a walk-through of how you can easily apply HubSpot’s principle for hard decisions:

  1. Assign a decision-maker. By default it is the team leader (you). Nevertheless, you can choose to delegate the role if you find that a team member has enough expertise and strong feelings about the issue. Make sure you assign a decision-maker in advance. 

  2. The decision-maker collects input to make a conscious decision. This can happen in the form of a debate in a synchronous meeting or an asynchronous one. The latter has the benefit of allowing for reflections instead of the typical reactions. The aim of the debate is for the decision-maker to have a comprehensive view of the problem and the tradeoffs of the proposed solutions. In this phase, the decision-maker should consider every argument and ask questions to get in-depth and accurate knowledge and insights. 

  3. Make the decision. The decision-maker takes a stand on the ideal solution. It is crucial that they register on the meeting notes the decision as well as its arguments. It can help ensure teams stay aligned throughout the course of implementation, as they can revisit the decision whenever they need to. 

  4. Execute the plan. It is crucial that everyone knows what their tasks are and respective deadlines. As a leader you should ensure there is only one owner for every task - this makes it easier to keep people on track and help employees stay focused and take ownership for the results. Before starting the execution, it is critical to ensure teams are aligned to the common goal.

When to revisit decisions

Once you have made a decision you should be confident enough to not buy into second-guessing. Nevertheless, there are times when you may need to revisit your decisions.

Here are the situations Dharmesh Shah advises you to do it:

Keep in mind that you should only opt to revisit a decision if it is absolutely necessary, or as Shah puts it “when stakes are high”.

Sometimes, even if you recognize that a decision may not have been the perfect one, it’s usually the best thing to do is just push through.” – Dharmesh Shah

Key takeaways

Decision-making is an art and one we often get wrong. At HubSpot, they came up with a simple 3-set approach to help leaders guide their teams into making hard decisions:

  1. Debate – share arguments to get the full view of the issue and its trade-offs

  2. Decide – assign the decision to one person, the one closest to the issue

  3. Unite – align your team to the common goal

Also, remember not to let the data decide for you and that the effort you put into a decision should be proportional to the consequences of that decision.

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