5 Decision Making Options for Meeting Leaders

Leaders often need to make hard decisions.

Our current president recently said “by the time something reaches my desk, that means it’s really hard. Because if it were easy, somebody else would have made the decision and somebody else would have solved it. So typically, if something’s in my folder, it means that you’ve got some very big, difficult, sticky, contradictory issues to be wrestled with.”

Yes, it can be lonely at the top. But it doesn’t always have to be. There are times when a leader may want to involve others in the decision making process.

There are five ways a leader can do this. None of them are “right” or “wrong” – it all depends on the degree of involvement required and how quick the decision needs to be made.

5 Decision Making Options:

1. Tell
“I want to inform you of a decision I’ve made and give you an opportunity to ask any questions.”

2. Test
“I’m thinking of choosing option A to solve the problem – what do you think?”

3. Sell
“I’m thinking of choosing option A to solve our problem – let me convince you why I think it’s a good option.”

4. Consult
“I need to select an option, and would like your input on which to choose.”

5. Consensus
“We need to make a decision, and I’d like us to make the decision together.”

The chart below can help a leader choose the best decision making option. If a decision needs to be made right away – and little involvement is needed, then the “Tell” method is perfectly appropriate. Examples of when this method might be used include emergencies (“the building is on fire – exit the front door now!”) – or trivial matters, where the leader does not want to waste everyone’s time.

As you can see from the chart, the more buy-in needed, the more time it usually takes to make a decision.

There are pros and cons for each option. Obviously, the ones requiring less involvement are faster. However, with little involvement, there is little buy-in and commitment, and a missed opportunity to incorporate multiple perspectives.

Again, each of these options has it’s time and place. The important thing is for a leader to be clear with the group which option is being used. This helps set the right expectations and informs people how they need to prepare. When a leader bounces back and forth between options and doesn’t tell the group, it confuses and frustrates the team – as well as the leader.

Consensus will provide the highest degree of involvement, collaboration, and commitment. However, if mismanaged, attempting to reach a consensus decision can turn into the meeting from hell.

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