Writing in Decision Making, Leadership, Learning, Kevin Eikenberry says raises questions about when a leader should call a meeting to reach a decision. He distinguishes between four kinds of decision-making processes:

  • Independent — the leader makes it alone, so no meeting is required — except, perhaps, to announce the decision.
  • With input — the leader wants input before making the decision, so interaction is important and a meeting to discuss factors may be a good idea.
  • Collaborative — the leader wants more than input, so interaction is crucial and a meeting is a good place for people to weigh facts and other factors in coming up with one or more recommendations.
  • Consensus — the leader wants the team to reach a consensus and make the decision, so a meeting is crucial, and more than one may be needed.

Eikenberry offers this warning: "If you have already decided which direction to go, or which course to take, do NOT ask for input. It damages trust, wastes people's time and is a dangerous manipulation."

He also lists five questions leaders should ask themselves when approaching important decisions:

  1. How fast must the decision be made? "If the building's on fire, you don't call a meeting," he says. In times of true crisis, every good organization has the capacity to behave as an autocracy. Autocracy is a high-risk strategy, but in a crisis speed trumps all other considerations.
  2. Who has the information to make the best decision? No one completely shares a good leader's comprehensive perspective, but if specific information is needed to make an informed decision, the people who have that information should be consulted.
  3. Who needs to be engaged in the conversation? If buy-in and ownership are important considerations, it's helpful to involve key people — and sometimes everyone — in the process. But don't come to the table with a decision in hand and expect buy-in just because people were invited to listen. Participation in the decision-making process is the key to getting widespread support for it.
  4. How important is the buy-in or commitment of others to the success of the decision? Similar to the previous question, but with the focus on magnitude. "The larger the impact, the longer the repercussions and over the bigger the decision, the more input you may want people to have. People will buy into decisions when they have had more true input into them — even if the final decision isn't the one they would have made independently," Eikenberry says. However, if a decision has already been made, just announce it and live with the consequences.
  5. What is the trust level among team members and with the leader? Eikenberry's rule of thumb: "If trust is high, more decisions can be made with less input ... If trust is low or non-existent, engagement will be more difficult."

Trust serves as both the glue that holds organizations together and the grease that permits effective interaction among its members. Good leaders foster trust all the time so that it's plentiful when it's needed to act quickly or to deeply engage team members' diverse talents and perspectives when analyzing and deciding complex issues.

Copyright © 2011 Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute, 208 E. North St., Durand, IL 61024. Any part of this newsletter may be reproduced so long as there is full attribution, our web site is listed, and any electronic reproduction includes a link to our site:

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