“The leader facilitates a decision making process by which those involved feel good about the decision making process”This thought came to me as I was driving to Concordia's service of commencement this past Saturday (who knows from where these ideas originate). It struck me that when a group of people are brought together for a decision to be made, there will be times (probably more often than not) when some of the group members disagree with the decision...perhaps even disagree violently. The leader's role is not to get everyone to agree...the leader's role is to facilitate a decision making process by which those involved feel good about the decision making process. That's not always easy, and it may take more art than skill. Here are a few thoughts on how one might be able to make this happen on a more regular basis:
- before the process begins, be sure that the right people are in the room...it is probably better to err on the side of too many people around the table rather than missing someone who needs to be there
- articulate the problem very clearly so people know exactly what the issue is on which they are deciding...clarity around problem solving saves time and keeps the group focused
- ask good questions...before entering the room, be sure that the right questions have been articulated and that the leader does not have pre-conceived answers they already want to hear
- be sure everyone has a chance to speak...bring out everyone's ideas, especially those who tend to be more quiet
- do not let a certain voice or opinion dominate...when people are passionate about something, they want to speak to it (and often believe that if they speak loud and long enough they will get their way)
- ask clarifying questions...be sure that you and the others around the table understand what is being said and WHY certain ideas are being stated.
- have a common understanding about who is making the decision and how that decision will be made...is it the leader's decision; the decision of another person in the group; is it through a vote or consensus?
- do not leave the room until everyone understands what decision has been made (or when it will be made)...again, getting clarity around this helps to send the same message forward
- follow up with major dissenters and influential voices...very few people need to get their way all the time AND most people want to know that they were heard. Those who get a little more attention from the leader after the decision has been made are more apt to be supportive as the decision is rolled out
- enter into the conversation with the attitude that you as a leader do not always have the right answer to the issue at hand...being humble throughout the decision making process will go a long way toward helping others feel good about the decision making process.
Leaders who understand and practice this concept can help to build a strong constructive culture where people are free to speak up, teams work collaboratively, and team members feel good about the decision making process - whether they agree with the decision or not.