Asking Your People for Their Opinion When to Make Decisions Alone and When to Involve Your Team
I have learned that people don’t have to get their way, but they like their opinions considered. Depending on the situation, we must involve our teams to varying degrees in our decision-making. Below are three levels of involvement leaders should keep in mind to implement at different times.
1—Make decisions without asking for others’ opinions.
Sometimes, leaders have to make a decision alone—quickly and resolutely. Especially in emergencies, there might not be time for discussion. Other times I find it difficult to ask for the opinion of others when a relationship is poor, or when the intention of others is not good. When I’ve asked for people’s opinions and our relationship is strained, they tend to get upset if I don’t go with their opinion. Because of the weak relationship, I feel challenged to effectively communicate that the matter is not up to them to decide. Having said all that, I actually find this approach is a rarity. Even authoritarian political regimes must take public opinion into account. Otherwise, they will have a revolt on their hands.
When leading an organization, if people don’t feel valued and respected, we will receive their minimum effort and commitment. They will do just enough to avoid dismissal. Moreover, if we can’t ask for the input of others, our decisions will not be informed by varied viewpoints. Many times leaders don’t ask for people’s opinions because they believe they may lose control if they have to go by what others suggest. If that is the case, we must change that expectation. Here is one way to think about it. Generally, most people want their ideas to be sincerely considered, but not necessarily followed.
2—Make decisions first, then ask for feedback before executing.
A better way to make key decisions is to get people’s feedback before moving forward. People want to know their voice has been heard. The key is that people also know who has the ultimate responsibility to make the final decision.
Many times however, the boundaries are unclear and people think that by soliciting their opinions you are asking for their approval. Most people I have worked with know this, but a few need to have the boundary clearly defined by saying something to them like, “Thank you so much for your thoughts on this matter. I really value your opinion, and it will be important in my decision making process. I want to be sure however that you will trust me and be okay with whatever decision I make.” When you appeal to people that way, most of the time you will garner their support.
3—Make decisions after weighing others’ feedback.
The best way to make a decision is to introduce an idea or direction and allow a conversation to take place. Of course this is not always ideal because this approach is time consuming. However, any time you can engage this method, you will produce the best results and engender the most engagement.
One danger here is confusing leadership with majority rule. Leadership is not to be treated like an election in a democracy. Sometimes I make a decision that opposes the opinions of those around me. What I must do is stay the course despite the opposing views. Without question, I must listen, but I need to be bold to make the decision I think is best for the team or organization I lead. After all, I am the one responsible, not the group. I follow leaders because I trust them, and people should follow us because they trust us. I expect the leaders I follow to make a decision based on his or her experience and character, even if it opposes mine.
Another danger when we wait for consensus or perfect clarity is we will often miss the window of opportunity to even make a decision. Leaders are called to make a call. We must use the appropriate method to maximize forward progress while honoring and including those we lead.
The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision. ~ Maimonides (1135-1204)
For Further Reading: