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Make better (and clearer) decisions
By Kelly DeCesare
Have you ever had an experience in which you think you’ve gotten a group to commit to a plan, only to find that after the meeting everyone does his or her own thing?
Chances are the team members weren’t clear about the decisions made in the meeting and their role in implementing them.
In virtually every meeting, decisions are being made. They could be as simple as planning the agenda for the next meeting or as detailed as determining a product strategy. As a facilitator, you need to understand what those decisions are so that you can clearly communicate them to the group. Then you need to determine how those decisions will be made. The sidebar (“5 types of decisions”) describes the possible options, which include:
- Leader decision,
- Individual input,
- Team input,
- Consensus, and
- Delegation with constrains.
You want to be sure everyone at the meeting has a shared understanding of the decision-making process being used. Use the opening minutes of the meeting to:
• Share how the decisions will be made during this meeting. Even if it seems obvious to you, it may not be to your team. Taking a minute up front to let the team members know how decisions will be made can save time and reduce confusion. Take the time to make sure your definition is the one they’re applying.
• Explain why you chose a particular method for making decisions. Perhaps you’re tight on time and need a decision made quickly. That’s a perfectly valid reason to steer clear of consensus and use one of the other methods listed.
Let your team members know that up front. Left to draw their own conclusion, they may assume you made your choice because you didn’t value their input. Once your team members understand your reasoning, they may be more likely to buy in to the method you’ve chosen.
• Get agreement on the method you’ve chosen before going forward. Your team can appear to follow your lead only to head in a different direction once the meeting adjourns. By simply asking, “Who can’t agree to making decisions by consensus?” you can quickly identify those folks who don’t agree with your choice. Better to identify and work through that dissention up front than to let it fester into passive aggressive behavior that stalls meeting progress.
You have the option to choose a method you feel is best, and not all options are right for all situations. As a meeting leader, you may not want to share where the team members are headed, but how they’re going to get there. If you do, you’ll find you’ll have more engaged passengers who will stay on course long after the meeting is over.
5 types of decisions
Decision making is not a cut-and-dry affair. Decisions can be made in five different ways. It’s important to pick the method that fits the situation — and then to live by that method.
The five methods are:
1. Leader decision. The leader makes the decision independently, and then communicates it to the team.
2. Individual input. The leader gets input from individuals on the team, decides independently, and then communicates the decision to the team.
3. Team input. The leader gets input from the entire team, decides independently, and communicates the decision to the team.
4. Consensus. The leader and the entire team come to a group decision. It is a decision that everyone can live with and support once they leave the room.
5. Delegation with constraints. The leader passes the decision making to the team, stating criteria to which their decision must adhere (such as time and budget constraints).
Kelly DeCesare is a communications consultant with Brody Professional Development, a training and development firm. She can be contacted at 800-726-7936 or through the company’s Web site at www.BrodyPro.com. ©2006, reprinted with permission.