This blog post by Brian Howard was originally posted on his blog site found at www.contextcoaching.org. We thank him for his permission to repost it. Brian is the Executive Director of Context Coaching Inc., a firm that specializes in coaching leaders and pastors . He has more than 24 years of proven leadership experience as a leadership coach, working with high-level leaders from around the world. Brian and his family live in southern California.
Team Decisions are often better decisions than individual decisions. Building and leading a cohesive leadership team is an essential part of leading a healthy organization. Depending on context this may be a board, a staff team, an executive team, or an elder team. Once that team is in place, a wise leader will recognize the value of effective team collaboration to make better decisions than he could make himself. What’s so great about team decision making?
The Benefits of Team Decision Making:
- Team Decisions protect you from the burden and consequences of making all decisions yourself.
- Team Decisions allow the organization to reflect your strengths and not your weaknesses. You have a limited perspective.
- Team Decisions are most often better decisions than individual decisions.
- Team Decisions include key stakeholders in the decision-making process. I own a decision that I participated in making.
Below is a strategy for making better collective decisions. A team may apply this process to a variety of issues that they need to work through including strategic planning, problem-solving, policy writing, or goal setting.
How to Make Better Team Decisions:
- Right-Size your Leadership Team
If a team is too big, you will struggle to collaborate because of size dynamics. Patrick Lencioni advocates for a leadership team of between three and eight people. When a leadership team is larger than eight people the communication style among the team changes and leadership effectiveness stalls.
There are two kinds of communication necessary for effective collaboration. The first is Advocacy, which is to articulate one’s opinion or idea. The second is Inquiry, which means asking questions or seeking clarity about someone else’s opinion or idea.
When there are t00 many people in the room, Advocacy dominates and Inquiry wains. The reason for this is that people realize that they have to fight for their chance to speak, so they weigh in with their opinion while they have the opportunity. With too large of a leadership team quieter (and often wiser) voices get drowned out by verbal processors.
But when a team is smaller, people are confident that they will have the opportunity to speak, and, therefore, can do more inquiry than advocacy, leading to both better and faster decisions.
- Ensure that the Right People are on the Team
You will never make good team decisions with a divided, unengaged, or unskilled leadership team. A unified and cohesive leadership team is essential for a healthy organization. Many leadership teams or boards are slowed and hindered by the wrong people on those teams.
- Write an Initial Proposal
When solving a problem, writing a plan, or making a decision, begin by having one person write a proposal. Don’t start a decision-making process with a group dialogue or brainstorm around an issue. This “blank slate” approach almost always ends in 7 opinions and no progress. Instead, have one person serve the rest of the team by writing a “first draft” proposal. This plan becomes the starting place for team collaboration.
- Collaborate Around the Initial Proposal
Now that you have a draft on the table work through it as a team. What works and doesn’t work? What can you throw out? What should you keep? What do you need to add? Ask every person on the team to bring their perspective. Don’t allow a person to sit quietly and not share. The goal of this dialogue is to take the initial proposal and improve it.
- Write a Final Plan
Once the discussion is complete (This may take an hour or a month) have the person who wrote the initial proposal, write a final plan. Make sure to integrate the decisions reached in the team process.
- Solicit Individual Agreement
After beginning with an initial proposal, continuing with team collaboration, you now have a final plan. Each person on the leadership team now needs to own the decision. Ensure that each team member has weighed in and is committed to the plan. Mine for conflict (dig for disagreement). Your goal is to leave the process with a decision that every person owns.
- Publicly Own the Plan as a Team
Once your team completes the process, the team must speak with one voice. But what if a team member doesn’t not completely agree but is willing to defer? The principle of “Disagree and Commit” applies here. A person can feel free to disagree in the room, but if the team decides to make the decision, each member is committed to owning the decision when you leave the meeting. There is no dissenting opinion. You all own the decision.
If you are looking to make better decisions, want to have a collaborative environment, and value the input of a team, follow this process and watch your leadership capital rise.