Unleashing the full capacity of your people

On Decision Making: Encourage Passion – Discourage Competition

Meetings - collaborative not competitive teams

Apples-to-Apples is a popular game in my house, where a person must decide which word submitted by the other players best fits a theme card. The winning entry gets the theme card. Collect enough theme cards and you win the game. Players are allowed to lobby for their submission to win that theme card.

This has a strong echo in corporate decision-making processes. The best decision is not always taken, because people lobby for their own ideas in order to “win” the decision-making process. Collect enough wins that work out, and your career prospects improve!

The problem is, when decision-making becomes a competition rather than a collaboration, outcomes decline in quality. The loudest or more insistent lobbyist wins his or her idea through to implementation, but the team is not sold on it, and might even resent it. Execution is tepid at best.

The urge to “win” needs to be modulated.

As the leader of a group, you need to nip this “win the round” mindset in the bud. Decision making cannot be a competition between personalities. You need to set up systems where these subjective, suboptimized outcomes are avoided.

Here are just a few steps you might take to improve your planning and decision-making processes:

  • Circulate ideas ahead of group meetings. Let people gather their thoughts ahead of time.
  • Have the ideas presented without names attached.
  • Have a round of “discussion” via written responses to presented ideas or available action options.
  • Set time limits on speaking, where everyone has the same time to express their opinions.
  • Monitor group dynamics closely. Draw out the introverts with directed questions.
  • Limit critical commentary. Model through your own behavior how feedback should be couched in constructive, forward thinking terms.

Build Leadership Skill and HabitsLet me be clear: Passion for an idea is a good thing. Encourage people to take ownership of an idea and champion it. And if their idea wins the day on its merits, full credit to them for being its source. But set clear expectations that all ideas get fair hearings, and no one person can own an idea or a plan of action. Ideas are found, honed, chosen and executed as a team, and the credit is given as broadly, objectively and collectively as possible.

For more ideas on minimizing the impact of the need to “win,” channeling competitive personalities into more productive directions, contact Brooke or Dave!

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