Improving decision making on your team by pitbull99


									Improving decision making on your team
By Russ Sabia
 November 5, 2006

In a leadership team offsite meeting I conducted recently, a revealing moment of insight
occurred for the leader.
    In one exercise, the group was discussing the manner in which they handled conflict
and the implications of their individual conflict styles. Each team member had a turn to
discuss their style and the impact it had on their effectiveness and on the team. Other
team members then had a chance to comment and give their thoughts on how they
perceived that person's style.

    When it came time for the team leader to discuss her style, she described it as being
one of collaboration and compromise. The team was taken aback by this and, after a
moment of nervous silence and exchanged glances, one brave team member tentatively
told the leader he viewed her style, instead, as very competitive, and that the leader often
argued and forced her point, seemingly without regard to other people's opinions.
    This surprised the team leader, but as they discussed it further, she began to realize
that she did often express her views early in discussions, and because of the forceful way
she stated her thoughts, the team frequently perceived her as having made up her mind
already, so any debate of the issue, they believed, would just be a waste of time.
    This resulted in the team members, who wanted to be perceived as supportive of their
boss, withholding their opinions and an overall lack of candor.
    The team leader confided that she actually desired and would enjoy more debate from
this team, and had often wondered why she rarely got it. She realized from this discussion
that her behavior had stifled open dialog and idea exchange around important issues.
    The team also began to recognize that this dynamic had affected the overall quality of
their decisions as well as their commitment to them. Many good ideas in the group were
withheld, which denied the team the opportunity to challenge and debate the merits of
those good ideas.
    And because of the lack of discussion and ideas from team members, their
commitment to what was decided was often lower than it should be.
    With this new insight, the team began creating new and healthier team protocols for
their staff meetings that encouraged idea sharing and active debate.
Lessons Learned
   What can team leaders learn from this experience to improve the decision making and
open dialog on their own teams?

      •   As leader, remember that the power of your position can easily sway team
          members' points of view to align with yours. Try withholding your opinion
          until later in the discussion - don't weigh in until you have asked for all
          opinions from the team.

      •   Learn to ask for and listen to the expertise that resides within your team. Be
          willing to acknowledge that you don't have all the answers.

      •   Encourage candor - seek out diverse points of view with a genuine interest in
          getting to the best solution.

      •   Help the team develop "rules of engagement" or protocols for engaging in
          conflict so that they can disagree about important issues constructively.

      •   Demand debate - if you are discussing a controversial issue and getting little
          disagreement or lots of head nodding, challenge the team about it. Ask specific
          individuals for their opinions or concerns.

      •   Drive the team toward closure on issues being discussed. In those rare
          instances where they cannot come to agreement, make the final call yourself.
          Explain your reasons for whatever decision you make. If all views have been
          aired and debated, most people will fully commit to the decision made, even if
          their original viewpoint was different.

Good decisions come from teams that are willing to engage in passionate, ideological,
unfiltered debate about issues that are important to the team. Your behavior and the
norms you help create for the team as leader, helps show them the way.

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