A Surprisingly Subtle Yet Powerful Way to Improve Decision Making

Decisions.  We make them all day, every day.

Decision making seems like it should be a relatively easy process. After all, we’ve got lots of practice at it.

However, for leaders making decisions in organizational settings, there’s a whole new level of complexity that comes with the territory. It’s not as simple as right or wrong, good or bad.   Some things to consider include:

  • What decision(s) need to be made?

  • Who is the final decision maker?

  • Who gives input before the decision is made?

  • Who will the decision impact?

  • Who is told about the decision?

  • When are they told about the decision?

Robin is a leader with a decision making challenge.

A VP of Marketing at a large tech company, Robin would like her team to be empowered.  Given the amount she has on her plate, she would love nothing more than for her team to be able to make decisions without her.  Much to her surprise, the last round of 360 evaluations Robin received helped her realize that many of her team members see her as being a micro-manager.Robin told me,

I hate the idea that people see me micro-managing.  I don’t mean to do it.  I’m trying to be helpful and supportive to them. At the same time, I want us to do our best for our customers and our business.As the team leader, I feel it’s my responsibility to make sure we’re doing that.  

Robin has good intentions.  But her team sees her behavior in a different light. One of the comments on her 360 captured it well:

So the team’s been working on this big data analytics project, and I showed Robin what we’ve been doing.  She jumped in with all kinds of alternative directions we should consider pursuing.  She didn’t even give me a chance to finish sharing what I’d planned on presenting.  To be totally honest, I left the meeting feeling demoralized.

Robin was shocked.

But I didn’t mean to dictate the decision! I was just trying to help.  I was making a suggestion.  

Since that incident, Robin and her team have come with some new decision making vocabulary.  They now have clear distinctions between something being an “ask”, and something being a “suggestion”.

When Robin makes an “ask”, it means she wants people to do something specific.  It means she is the final decision maker.

When Robin makes a “suggestion”, it means that the she is not the final decision maker: the team member is. They are welcome to take her suggestion or leave it.

This tiny change–is this an ask or a suggestion– has made a huge difference in helping the team make decisions.  They also feel a whole lot better about the choices being made.

What other tips do you have to improve team decision making?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below. 

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