Decision-Making Alternatives for Team Leaders

WARNING! This post is not for the leader who sees only black and white resolutions to business challenges. It is for the solution-seeking team leader willing to test several alternatives, even if one or two fail, in order to fit the best solution to the needs of the team.

This morning, while sipping on my first 6 a.m. cup of coffee and listening to C-Span, a lawmaker commented that although he thought the idea made a lot of sense, he would not sign the petition “by the other side” because it was not the right way to do it.

“This is a negotiation between two different sides… ..But I’m not going to allow anybody on the other side to destroy my credibility with my own team. That’s not going to work very well to persuade them to move in the direction that I think is appropriate.”

So I began to wonder:

  • When should business leaders consider risk-taking actions in the spirit of compromise?
  • And, when should managers follow protocol in lieu of resolution in order to accommodate factions of the team? 

When faced with tough choices, managers and team leaders, reinforced by their organizational culture, often respond in one of two ways:

  • Some “get along by going along,” putting too much emphasis on cooperating with others rather than standing up for their ideas.
  • Others quickly spiral into excess conviction when differences arise, resulting in unproductive, emotional fighting on the team.

In either case, conflict arises. Constructive approaches to handling the tough day-to-day issues can foster creative, innovative and profitable business solutions.

Steve Wille and Bill Kuehn, co-founders of Tough Teams, offer four constructive approaches to handling conflict-ridden decisions. All four of these approaches treat conflict as an opportunity.

Pragmatic: Let’s look at the facts and figure this thing out.

  • Whatever the situation, pragmatists will ask, “What can be done?” 
  • They leave out the emotions and don’t dwell on the past. 
  • They want the facts and are willing to let the facts lead where they lead, and they will accept any idea that works.

Self-Empowered: Here is what I am doing about it. 

  • Self-empowered people take ownership and responsibility.  
  • They start by working on things they control. 
  •  They see a crisis as a challenge and an opportunity, and typically, they find solutions that no one thought were even possible.

Relationship Builder: First, let’s get to know each other. 

  • Before dealing with the issues leading to conflict, these people want to deal with the person.
  • Relationship builders want to make a human connection.  
  • They know from past experience that a human connection can get them through the tough times.

Conciliator: I know we can work this out. 

  • The conciliator’s number one belief is the old expression “win/win.”  
  • The conciliator believes if he can help you get what you want, you will help him with what he wants. 
  • It is critical to the conciliator that both parties walk away from the conflict feeling that their needs were met.

Which approach fits your style? When you are in leadership positions, do you use one style for decision-making, or a combination of styles? Let us know in the comment section.

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