When making significantly more valuable decisions, leaders need to harness the collective wisdom of a team.
But that’s just the beginning. They must also consider more options than initially envisioned, create collective ownership of the decision, and have everyone explicitly agree to implement the decision.
This is what collaborative decision making is about. A lot easier said than done, since we know that team decisions take on many shapes with varying degrees of success. A presentation is made, information may be discounted, ideas get kicked around the table, arguments and counterarguments arise, opinions form, biases are introduced, hopefully compromises are struck, and eventually consensus may emerge.
It is often not an easy process. So what can your managers do to gain heartfelt commitment to execute on team decisions? As a start, help them hone these 4 skills for effective collaborative decisions:
- Think of collaborative decision making as a series of structured conversations dependent on the importance or difficulty of the decision or available time, resources, and information. Consider at least these 4 conversations:
- Building an aggregation of understanding of the goal, available information, and other dynamics relevant to the decision.
- Fleshing out multiple options, brainstorming to ideate alternatives
- Deciding on a final agreement, where everyone can get behind the decision
- Agreeing on individual and collective action to be taken — the plan going-forward
For easier decisions these structured conversations could be completed within one or two meetings.
- Tap into the real power of your team. Really use the best qualities of each team member. Who is best at uncovering all the relevant information? Who will present the data in a compelling way? Who are the innovators who look at problems in unusual ways? You get the idea, right?
- Generate and ask a list of powerful questions. Organizations move in the direction of the questions they ask. With a good understanding of your team members’ strengths, direct your questions in the most relevant ways. The questions the team wrestle with are sometimes even more important than the answers.
- Get out of the way. Bob Frisch writes in Harvard Business Review that effective decision makers need to let go of the illusion of group decision making. He says the wise boss will recognize that individuals, not groups, make decisions. In fact he argues that when the boss is in the room, he or she ultimately influences decisions. I still believe that leaders need to do everything in their power to step aside and let the team debate, revise, brainstorm, and align in order to own the collective decisions they make. So leaders should try being a guide of the process rather than always an active participant.
In a study of top management team performance conducted by the global executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, 124 CEOs worldwide and 579 of their direct reports were asked to rate whether leadership team decision processes were clear. On a scale of one to seven, the CEOs rated decision process clarity, on average, at 5.62. The executives who worked for them returned a rating of only 3.86. This study alerts us to the need to clearly instill an effective decision-making process.
Help your leaders fine tune how they can lead their teams through Collaborative Decision Analysis. Let’s talk about how we can help your teams navigate through this and other challenges.
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