Great leaders set an appropriate decision-making culture.
People need to know, for a start, that robust challenge is expected and rewarded, not frowned upon and suppressed. You have to be able to challenge each other, and the people around you need to be able to challenge you as a decision-maker, if you want to bring out your best.
This process invariably involves some friction… it’s the only way to bring the often opposing views to the table, debate them, and work through them together.
Virtually every leader says that’s the culture they create. But do they?
How many leaders around you do you see doing this really well? Fostering a culture where robust challenge is the norm, and people offer their viewpoints fearlessly because it’s not personal—they know that it’s for the benefit of the whole group.
Many leaders unwittingly kill this culture because they can’t handle the constructive challenge to their own viewpoints: they’re too insecure. You don’t want to be one of those leaders. Let’s see if these things ring a bell:
- Do you know leaders who get angry when someone says something that they don’t like?
- Have you ever seen a leader shut someone down in mid-sentence because their views don’t accord with the other person?
- Have you ever experienced another leader who’s not listening actively – or in fact, not listening at all?
- Have you seen leaders put their own view out first, making everyone else’s views simply a formality? Or;
- Have you seen leaders demonstrating their own unwillingness to change their views even when better information comes to light?
So many leaders do these things unconsciously: they don’t know they’re doing it! I used to suffer from number 4: I would put my view out too early, and it would shut down the conversation… no one was prepared to disagree with me!
Leaders, with the best intent, just don’t understand the impact these behaviors have on their people. They push them back to a place where they won’t contribute, and then wonder why!
Decisions made in that type of culture will never be as good as the decisions that have undergone timely, robust debate of the key issues.