Every time I sit in a meeting, I’m utterly fascinated by the way groups make decisions. What happens before, during and after the meeting is different depending upon an organization’s culture. I’m reminded of this during the recent debt ceiling talks … well, maybe we shouldn’t even go there.
Charlie Judy, author of HR Fishbowl, wrote an interesting post titled “Stop Playing Nice if it doesn’t Advance the Ball”. It’s a good read – you might want to check it out. My takeaway from his post was we’ll never make everyone happy and we’ll never be able to let everyone toss in their two-cents so make participation in group decisions count. I couldn’t agree more.
Then, Jason Lauritsen added his own spin on the subject in “Calling the Question”. Another terrific read. Jason suggested managers should separate their personal feelings from the business decision. I’ve heard this before: Teams can disagree in private but publically need to present a united front. As a HR pro, I’ve been in this place many times – for example, I might not personally care for the company’s decision on the new health care plan but as the director of human resources, I need to support it.
In the vast majority of situations, Charlie and Jason’s philosophy applies. Leaders need to solicit feedback from the appropriate people and make a decision in the best interest of the company. Then the management team must execute the decision, not sit around and whine about it. I’d like to take the conversation one step further.
What do you do when the decision is unethical? Because I don’t believe in those cases “the united front” mantra applies.
I once worked with a person who whole-heartedly believed in the united front concept. To the point where she approved financially irresponsible decisions, and she wanted me to “go along to get along”. I just couldn’t do it. Ultimately, I couldn’t be a part of the organization.
So, I’d like to add my own thoughts in the group decision making dynamic:
- Consider inviting your harshest critic to the meeting. Make sure you know where the rough patches are in the decision.
- Strive to get everyone to “live” with the decision. They don’t have to love it or even like it. But hopefully they can live with it.
- If someone can’t live with it, find out why. It might not change the final outcome. But chances are, if they can’t live with the decision, they can’t live with presenting a united front about it.
Group decision making is an important part of being a manager and leader. It has huge benefits in terms of buy-in to company activities. Managing the dynamics and discourse that takes place along the way will not only benefit the manager but the company.