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Fostering Effective Decision Making Within Your Team

by Bob Urichuck

Working in the corporate world, I quickly became demotivated when I was told what to do. It was as if I did not know my job, was not trusted, engaged, or empowered—all necessary elements of a high-performing team.

I challenged my boss one day when she came into my office telling me what I needed to do. Her instruction made me feel unimportant, I said.

“How should I manage you?” she asked in turn.

I suggested she try asking me and other team members instead of telling us; engaging us made us a more productive team.

Review your approach

Think about yourself for a moment:

›   How do you like to be managed?

›   Do you prefer being told what to do or being asked? Which is more empowering to you?

As a team leader:

›   How do you think your team members want to be managed?

›   Did you not hire or inherit them for their expertise?

›   Who should know their job best, you or them?

›   Should you not be consulting them, instead of telling them?

Engaging and empowering your team members and getting them involved in decision making, hinges on trust—trust in you and in your team members.

Do you not trust yourself? Do you not trust all your team members? Why would you want to move forward as a team without any trust? If you sense a lack of faith, consider what needs to be changed to establish or regain that trust.

To engage and empower team members requires you to ask questions of them and listen intently to their answers. Challenge their answers and help them discover for themselves the real solution. When they discover the solution, they feel empowered; they take ownership and are more motivated when implementing it.

The same applies to decision making. The following table outlines the three decision-making styles. Which style do you think would work best for you and your team?

Using decision-making processes to reach consensus

An important part of decision making is reaching a consensus. Consensus has been reached when all members of a group can agree on a single solution or decision and each can say:

›   I believe you understand my point of view.

›   I believe I understand your point of view.

›   Whether or not I prefer this decision, I will support it because it was reached openly and fairly.

In order to achieve consensus…

›   Allow time for all team members to state their opposition and state it fully enough to get the feeling that others truly do understand them.

›   All members must listen carefully to people expressing viewpoints different from their own.

›   Avoid arguing for the sake of “getting your own way.”

›   Avoid changing your mind for the sole purpose of avoiding conflict.

›   Avoid compromising techniques: i.e. majority vote, averaging, power plays, coin flipping, etc.

›   View differences of opinion as natural and helpful rather than as hindrances.

›   Be suspicious of initial agreement.

›   Verbally test for consensus by going around the table; silence or a few head nods does not necessarily mean consensus.

When to use consensus…

›   For a group process or procedural decision pertaining to how the group operates;

›   In situations where effective implementation of a project requires the commitment and support of all group members.

Consensus decision making can yield improved quality of decisions due to:

›   More minds;

›   More information;

›   More credibility;

›   More confidence.

It can also lead to improved ownership of decisions due to:

›   More people involved;

›   Wider commitment;

›   Greater support;

›   Higher potential for successful implementation.

Based on what you have learned here, how will you proceed with making decisions in your next team meeting?

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