Decisions, Decisions: Leadership and Making Decisions on High Performing Teams

In the fast-paced world of high-performing teams, decision-making is both a science and an art. Leaders are not just decision-makers; they are orchestrators of consensus, quick-action commanders, and cultivators of inclusive dialogue.

Leaders need to have a strategy that allows them to navigate each decision point well, allowing them to achieve both productivity and continued team cohesion. Let’s dive into various decision-making models, demystify ‘consensus’, and discover some of the questions to ask when choosing the most suitable approach for your teams.

The Importance of Decision-Making

Decision-making in high-performing teams is the linchpin that holds strategy and execution together. It’s not just about choosing a path; it’s about charting a course that drives the team towards success. In these teams, decision-making balances the need for quick action with the wisdom of collective input, shaping the very culture and pace of the workplace. It’s about making choices that are not just good, but right – for the team, the project, and the organization.

A Leader’s Role in Decision Making

The leader’s role in decision-making is pivotal. They are not just the final say, but the architects of a decision-making process that is clear and effective. Leaders in high-performing teams understand that decision-making goes beyond merely exerting authority and includes guiding the team through a process that considers the type and scope of the decision at hand. It’s about fostering an environment where everyone is aligned and rowing in the same direction.

Decision-Making Models

There are multiple models that leaders and their teams can draw on for effective decision-making, each appropriate for different scenarios and team dynamics. The art lies in matching the right model to the specific nature of the decision and the unique needs of the team. Let’s delve into three key models to set you on the right path:

Command (“I Decide” Model)

The Command approach is the epitome of swift and direct decision-making. Ideal for high-pressure situations where time is of the essence or in crisis scenarios where quick, decisive action is paramount. It’s akin to a captain steering a ship through a storm – there’s no time for debate when immediate action is needed.

While this method ensures rapid response and clear direction, it’s less about team involvement and more about efficient resolution. However, overuse of this model can lead to a dip in team morale or a feeling of exclusion, so it’s best employed in situations where urgency and decisiveness are truly needed.

Consult (“I Decide, With Input” Model)

The Consult approach strikes a balance between authoritative decision-making and team involvement. Here, the leader acts as a collector of the team’s wisdom, gathering insights, ideas, and feedback from the experts and those on the front line before making the final decision. It’s an inclusive approach that values the expertise and perspectives within the team, allowing for a broader view and more informed decision-making.

This model is particularly effective in situations where the leader needs to tap into the specialized knowledge of the team or when diverse viewpoints might lead to a better outcome. However, the final decision still rests with the leader, making it a blend of collaborative input and individual responsibility.

Consensus (“We Decide Together” Model)

The Consensus model embodies the spirit of ‘We decide together.’ This approach involves the team in the process, aiming for a decision that everyone can agree with, or at least support.

It’s most effective when team buy-in is crucial for the success of a decision, as it fosters a sense of ownership and commitment among all members. This method can lead to decisions that are well-rounded and thoroughly considered, as diverse viewpoints are integrated into the final outcome.

However, reaching consensus can be time-consuming and may not always result in unanimous agreement. Instead, the focus is on achieving sufficient consensus where the decision is acceptable to all, even if it’s not everyone’s first choice. It’s about finding that middle ground where every team member feels heard and can commit to the decision made.

Tips for Decision-Making Alignment

There’s a lot of complexity in decision making, but I want to provide 4 tips that will help get you started every time:

  1. Avoid a One-Size-Fits-All Approach. This point bears repeating: Relying on one decision-making model for all situations is a terrible idea. Different scenarios require different approaches. Be flexible and assess each situation to determine the best approach. This adaptability prevents stagnation and ensures that decisions are made in the most effective manner for each unique circumstance.
  2. Prioritize Alignment not Perfection. When talking about decision-making, the idea of a RACI or DAI matrix for assigning roles and responsibilities inevitably comes up. It’s tempting to use this to drive clarity on who owns which decisions, but don’t let the neatness of the tool seduce you. The value is found less in filling out the matrix and more in the debate your team engages in. This allows your thinking to evolve together. So spend the time to have those discussions, instead of filling out the matrix on your own or with a handful of people.
  3. Start with Meaningful Decisions. If you’re not sure about where to get started on how to define or refine your decision-making practices as a team, start with some decisions rather than the hypothetical. These can be decisions that a) occur frequently, b) will have the most significant impact, c) occur frequently, or d) are imminent. This helps in focusing efforts where they are needed most.
  4. Foster Open Communication. Encourage an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their opinions and concerns. This leads to higher quality decisions, greater buy-in, and higher morale. An easy way to do this is carving out time in discussion purely for dissension and debate and asking each person to share at least one one thought.

Mastering decision-making in teams is an ongoing journey, one that requires navigating not just clear paths but also occasional standstills. It’s about creating a team dynamic where decisions are made with confidence and clarity.

For more insights on additional models of decision-making, understanding consensus, and further questions to guide your choice of a decision-making model, download our Team Decision Making template. This resource is designed to deepen your understanding and enhance your team’s decision-making skills.

How do you navigate decision-making with your team?

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