I recently spoke to an executive who was concerned about the prospects of gaining organizational buy-in on a new process improvement initiative. Historically, decisions in her company have been made in an ad hoc manner and have been routinely impulsive; her company views decision-making as a social process that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship rather than a systematic process for building cross-functional buy-in.
Instead of establishing a collaborative process and environment, the company has promoted a “relationship economy” where decisions get made based on who you know and how well you navigate the organization. When networking and navigating become the way things get decided and get done, the process – or lack thereof – becomes more important than the decisions being made.
Being a Solo Decision-Maker
I believe that most decision-makers truly want to take the best course of action for their organization. In situations like the one mentioned above, the process of determining what is “best” is a lonely one. Decision-makers are left to rely on their own instincts, insights and knowledge.
Without the benefit of other perspectives, a solo decision-maker can be susceptible to their own blind spots and impulses. For this reason, important decisions should never be made without input from others. This is especially true when a decision-maker is relying on others to implement the decision. Experience has shown that team members are much more motivated and inspired when their leaders value their input in the decision-making process – and don’t just see them as decision implementers.
Leading from Behind
If you are making decisions for your organization as a solo artist, it may be time to embrace the “lead from behind” management style. To do so, you will need to withdraw from being the center of decision-making, which will empower and inspire others to become vested in the business’ goals and outcomes. This shift will unleash the entrepreneurial spirit in your team members, and innovation will flourish.
By loosening your grip on the reigns, your team members will have more freedom, take more chances, and learn from their mistakes. This learning and growing will benefit the organization in the long run; your future leaders will be consistently groomed and readied for managerial success.
Destroying the Myths
Some will suggest that leading from behind isn’t practical in their situation or organization. Here are the most common reasons (i.e., myths) that I hear and how I destroy them:
Not true. The hidden time and cost associated with having a “relationship economy” for decision-making far exceeds that of having a well-defined and organized group decision-making process. A facilitated group decision-making process ensures that: 1) the right information is available at the right time; 2) resources are allocated to implement the decision, and 3) decisions are communicated to those that need to know in a timely manner.
Not true. Leaders are hired to provide leadership. Leaders are responsible for ensuring that good decisions get made, and that the organization succeeds. According to FranklinCovey, there are 4 roles that leaders play. They are: inspire trust, create vision, execute strategy, and coach potential. Interestingly, they say the way to execute strategy is to “Consistently achieve results with and through others using disciplined processes.”
Not true. New group decision support tools, such as Definitive Pro™, enable stakeholders to participate in a decision at any time, from anywhere, and using any device. There is no reason to delay your decision-making due to distributed and mobile workforces.
Not true. Consensus is not about averaging everyone’s inputs, it’s about having a collaborative, consistent, and transparent process. A collaborative process seeks and values the input from all stakeholders. A consistent process accurately evaluates all feasible alternatives and is understood by the organization. A transparent process is monitored, controlled and managed to ensure higher process performance and increases the likelihood of successful completion. As Steve Jobs has said: “Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”
Not true. A group that is properly organized and formed (and perhaps chartered) to make decisions will have authority from its sponsor, defined roles and responsibilities, and rules of engagement. There is a great deal of accountability when the decision-making process is formalized, and very little when decision-making is product of the “relationship economy.”
The Advantages of Group Decision-Making
When decision-making becomes a team sport, organizations realize many benefits, to include:
If you’ve never thought of decision-making as a team sport, maybe it’s time to lead from behind.
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John Sammarco has thirty-five years of experience leading, managing, and consulting to top public and private sector organizations, and has over twenty years of experience in facilitating complex group decisions. John founded Definitive Business Solutions in 2003, which provides world-class group decision-making solutions to increase efficiency, boost ROI, and reduce risk associated with business and technology investments. In 2016, John developed Definitive Pro™, which helps groups build consensus and make multi-criteria decisions.