Friday, March 11, 2016

competing ideas

When you assemble a team of really smart people, you will have competing ideas...there is no way around it.  This past July, as I launched my new team, I knew I had a group of really smart people in the room - people who were much smarter than me.  What I didn't realize was that when trying to solve an issue, they would all have different ideas, then look at me to make the decision.  The hard part was that all of their ideas were viable options and my job was to navigate the process of making that final choice.  Sometimes I would let them vote...sometimes I would let them wrestle it out...sometimes I would delegate the decision...and sometimes I made the decision myself.  So what is a leader to do when she is surrounded by competing ideas and is the one everyone is looking at?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Ask a lot of questions - be sure that you fully understand the concept in front of you and have enough information to actually make an informed decision
  • Give yourself 24-48 hours to make the decision (if you can) - this gives you time to cogitate on the idea and perhaps bounce it off of other trusted advisers
  • Play the "what if?" game with the team - what are the possible outcomes of each idea, and what are the risks associated with each one
  • Do your research -discover what other organizations have made similar types of decisions and the impact it had on them
  • Have a decision making matrix that can be used - for my team, we ask the question of impact on both mission and margin.  There are multiple ways to think about this for different organizations - having a tool helps the process move forward
  • Embrace the status quo - I know that seems paradoxical to leaders, yet at times it is best to not make a decision and move on.
  • Make the decision - sometimes it is best to just make a decision and move forward, knowing that the consequences (known and unknown) will occur.  
One final thought - once the decision has been made amidst these competing ideas, it is important to achieve consensus among the group and have their buy in.  My team has a practice of using what we call the "fist of five" where once a decision has been made, we all hold up our hands and show our buy-in or not...five fingers means "I am all in"...four fingers means "I have some reservations and am able to support us moving forward"...three fingers means "I am not sure about this decision and would like to talk about it some more"...two fingers means "I really cannot support this decision" and if any one holds up two fingers or less, we as a team go back to the process

I love being surrounded by really smart people and I love having competing ideas at the table.  It sometimes takes a little more time, but I believe that this process makes for better problem solving and stronger organizations.

1 comment:

LearnerJim said...

Sometimes leaders forget that their job description is to make the tough decisions. I believe that in the end, the CEO is responsible for all of the decisions made. She does not have to make them all and is responsible and accountable for all that are made. The team of smart opinionated people have to embrace that reality and the CEO does too.