group of employees sitting around tables during training

Pat has been surprised by a few results with his team recently. They have always successfully made the quota he set in the past, missing by more than 10% is unusual. He doesn’t understand what is going on? Meeting with them daily he reiterates goals and receives an update. He also lets them know he is available if needed. Yet they are still off the mark.

Is Pat reaping the harvest of the culture he developed around decision-making for his team?

My experience with similar scenarios has revealed a team with a decision-making culture centered around the leader. What am I talking about? Leaders make decisions for workers to execute. Not true in today’s complex work environment. Leaders who create a culture that takes time to seek input, collaborate and is open to feedback, produces superior results. Leaders do not have all the information required to make excellent decisions every time. The information needed is held by individuals doing the work.

Here is an example of two statements made by a leader that demonstrates the point.

Kick-off meeting for a challenging week (1):

“This is going to be a big week for us. We are to deliver the most ________ we ever have. I am confident of the plan and know we’ll be able to make it happen. Let me know if you need me for anything.”

In this statement, which is typical, the leader may have unintentionally erected barriers to making effective decisions in executing the plan. How? The leader makes her feelings about the plan known: it is good and expects to make the quota. These two statements reveal the leader’s bias, which may silence individuals who see potential problems. There is not an invite or planned opportunity to provide input as the plan progresses.

Kick-off meeting for a challenging week (2):

“This is going to be a big week us. We have a plan to deliver the most __________ we ever have. How confident do you feel about the plan? We will meet daily at 4 PM to assess our progress and decide on the path forward.”

What is the main difference between the two statements? The second statement solicits input on the team’s ability to execute. It does not reveal the leader’s feelings towards the plan and provides a time to pause the execution of the project and provide input.

We have all made statements similar to #1 with good intentions. We even believe when we say “Let me know if you need anything” team members will call. We are not intentionally squelching initiative or dissent. Which very often is the result.

Yet there are times we put roadblocks into gaining important insights by the culture we create. Want to remove roadblocks and have a positive decision making culture regarding your operations? Consider these steps:

  • Create an environment that removes the stress of disagreeing with the leader
  • Seek input from the people closest to the work
  • Be willing to change your initial decision
  • Make time to discuss and assess your decisions with the team

For those familiar with Agile Project Management, you will see all these elements are part of the agile process. Teams work in short intervals called sprints. At the conclusion of a sprint an interim product is delivered and assessed, everyone provides input, and decisions are made on how to move forward in the next sprint.

Does leading by providing direction and expecting compliance produce the best results for you?

How can you create a culture that supports quality decisions to get the most out of your organization?

Looking for more coaching and training on decision making? Find it here.