Decision Time: Clarity and Speed

"A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus. " — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Exceptional leaders make clear decisions. In making decisions, leaders may employ various methods of reaching decisions depending on the urgency and type of decision. The exceptional trick for ensuring the organization you are leading is with you is to make it clear which method you are using and why.

There are four major styles of decision making.

  1. Solo Decision Time. In some cases it is appropriate for the leader to make critical decisions with no input from anyone in the organization they are leading. This should be rarely used. Even when it is used, I have seen exceptional leaders give their groups fair warning that a decision is going to be made, and that they alone will make it.
  2. My Decision, I Am Seeking Input. This makes it clear that it is your decision and you value input. You want people to be a sounding board or even play devil's advocate. In using this method it is important to make sure people know when the decision will be made.
  3. Our Decision By Consensus. This is often appropriate if maximum understanding, buy-in, and follow through by those involved is critical. Note that consensus should be judged by presenting the proposal and finding out if there are objections. Then rate the objections:
    1. are they critical? In other words, this proposed solution in my opinion will be harmful to the group.
    2. Or are the objections "it would be better if..."
    3. If there are no critical objections, you have achieved consensus. Make the adjustments that make sense and are not time consuming. Move on!
  4. Delegate The Decision With Boundaries. Sometimes it is clear that the people that must decide are the people who must be successful with the decision. In that case delegating the decision with clear boundaries is an excellent method. One of the boundaries should be making it clear when a decision is required!

One of my favorite variations is consensus with a deadline! If the deadline arrives without consensus, it becomes the decision of the leader. The deadline helps to quickly sort out critical objections from helpful ideas that can be done later.

Be clear about your decision model ahead of time. Be exceptional!

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,
ALAN WILLETT