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Why “Sitting on the Fence” is a critical Business Strategy


Is it just me, or has the term “sitting on the fence” attracted a negative connotation?

We are all familiar with the expression, which generally is relegated to infer a lack of action and indecisiveness. Not a typical characteristic one would strive to embody if focused on being successful in business, and yet I would argue that it is a brilliant strategy that should be used more regularly. In fact, I believe it is practiced by the best in business, whether they realize it or not!

The term “sitting on the fence” dates back to the Revolutionary War of 1775, when General Washington asked a prominent New Jersey judge, Justice Imaly, which side he supported. Clearly indicating his evaluation regarding each position was not yet complete; he claimed he was “on the fence”.

I firmly believe that “sitting on the fence” is a critical step for evaluating information that will impact the future. I challenge the idiom that sitting on the fence means “no action”. When you think about what it takes to get one to that particular spot, you clearly see that action and change had to occur. What would it actually take for someone to position themselves “on the fence”?

Finding yourself in that position doesn’t mean you are incapable of action, it can however mean you are evaluating your options.

Here are my three reasons affirming the idea that sitting on the fence is a strategy that businesses must employ!

If you are sitting on the fence…

1) You are considering doing something different- curious to peak over the fence at an alternative.

Bravo, you are willing to face the concept of change. Change is necessary to evolve and thrive. If we get complacent with what we are doing- even if it feels like everything is running well- we forget to look for important signs on the way- Signs that you can only see when you stretch your neck and look beyond your own backyard.

2) Climbing up onto the fence places you in the view of options. Analyzing your options is best done from an observational vantage point. Making decisions with limited knowledge will lead to limited results. Sitting on the fence means you have the benefit of seeing how things are now and how they could be. You now have greater knowledge and therefore more options for making sound decisions.

3) You can now experience the complete extent of the new position- head completely above the routine allows you to observe even more than the original alternative. The image of someone sitting on a fence vividly portrays an individual that not only can see a clearer picture of their own back yard, but the neighbourhood and beyond.

I challenge you to perch yourself on your business’ fence!

  • Stop and check if your business practices are the best they can be. You can only determine this if you venture out of your own back yard.
  • Once you have peaked beyond your everyday routine, use your observational skills to determine what alternatives you might consider. Talk to experts and those that have faced challenges you can relate to. This knowledge can only be acquired if you are willing to leave your current vantage point and begin to climb to a new one.
  • Once you are sitting firmly on the fence you have the ability to evaluate your own practices and make plans as to how your business fits into the bigger picture. Once you have evaluated the options you can now act in a decisive and effective way.


Getting to the point where you are “sitting on the fence” is, without a doubt, an action phase. It is an action fuelled by curiosity.

“Be curious enough to ask why,

And brave enough to ask why not.”

                                                                           Leanne Brownoff


Next week we’ll talk about how to get off the fence, once you are on it!


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