“Going it alone” works for some of us, whereas others may not have a great track record using this approach. Those who want to improve their decision-making abilities should consider involving others in the process. Many feel their best decisions are made on a wide variety of inputs. Even opposing points of view can open our eyes to solutions we may never have considered. Another benefit of involving others in the decision-making process is that it leads to a greater level of ownership of the ultimate decision. There is always more support for “our” decisions than there is for “his” or “her” decisions.
So how do we get others to provide the type of input that will lead to the best decisions? Consider the following steps:
• Ask for help in making the decision. Most people actually like being asked for help. Asking for someone’s help makes them feel important. It also recognizes their knowledge and experience and shows that it is valued by someone else. Asking for someone’s help in making a decision will rarely produce a negative response and can generate enthusiasm to reach the best decision possible.
• Give them the opportunity to speak up and offer ideas. Some people have no problem with this. They will immediately voice ideas and opinions with little prodding. Unfortunately, there is a tendency for such people to monopolize a group discussion. Others may be more reserved, willing to stay quiet while others speak and appearing to contribute little to the discussion. This is when some facilitation skill can be useful.
It’s important to get everyone involved in the discussion and provide equal time for all. This may mean making extra effort to seek out comments from the more-quiet participants. At the end of a discussion, it is important that all participants feel they have been offered the opportunity to speak, even if they have chosen not to do so.
• Really listen to their input. At some time, all of us have played the “pretend to listen” game. Either we are thinking about other things, or we may be having difficulty understanding what the employee is saying, so we just nod and might even say “good point” or “let me think about that.” However, listening is an art that needs to be mastered. It requires focusing attention on the person speaking and making the effort to understand what he or she means. There really is no downside to listening to what others have to say. You just might hear something that will lead to a better decision. On the other hand, if you are not listening, you may miss important information. You also run the risk that people will soon realize that you don’t listen and stop providing the input you need.
• Make the decision and communicate it to everyone who has participated. Regardless of what the final decision is, it needs to be communicated as soon as possible to those who participated in the process. If you have asked for help from others, encouraged their input and really listened to what they said, the decision should not be a surprise to anyone. In fact, that is a good test of how effective your decision-making process has been. Everyone who has played a role has heard each idea presented. In the best-case scenario, the decision is obvious to all, even before being finalized. Although not everyone may agree with the final decision, this is a lot different from being completely surprised by what is ultimately decided. A complete surprise, such as a decision that was never even considered by the group, indicates something went very wrong with the group decision-making process. Some may become frustrated thinking that the process was just for show and the decision was made even before everyone’s input was sought. They may even be reluctant to offer advice in the future.
As we have to make so many decisions, it’s important that we use whatever resources we have at our disposal. The most effective resources are often right in front of us, and we should make a point of making the best use of each and every one of them.