June 11, 2012 2 Comments
Have you ever walked out of a staff meeting feeling confused, overwhelmed or mildly perturbed?
Maybe you were trying to pitch this great idea to a team of colleagues and no one seemed to get it. Or perhaps everyone praised your ingenuity, but you left the meeting lacking clarity as to who was doing what to help make that dream a reality. Maybe at this meeting you were informed that your boss’s boss made a drastic change to the department you run, and she did so without asking for your input.
Feeling frustrated just reading that? Whatever the reason, you are not alone. Those of us known as the non-decision making staff in a company feel the burdens and joys of compliance daily. We are the ones carrying out the judgments that are made on behalf of ourselves and others, and sometimes the process can get muddled along the way.
From working in a church, to co-owning a construction company with my husband, to being employed by top consultants specializing in decision-making itself, I’ve learned that gaining buy-in from the higher-ups doesn’t come without its headaches! Here, in no particular order, are some of my pet peeves when it comes to making decisions…when I’m not the one making them.
Decision Bug #1: Too many cooks in the kitchen.
If you’ve left a meeting at least 30 minutes to an hour past the intended end time, you most likely have too many cooks in the kitchen – or in this case, too many people with an opinion and no clear leader. Who’s got the D around here? Nominate one person to have the ultimate decision-making power and hold him accountable to saying yay or nay, thus moving the process along or stopping it dead in its tracks.
Once you’ve nominated the top dog, it is very important that he or she stick to their guns when the process gets underway. Working for a company with a high I culture, I have found that the leader will have numerous employees trying to influence the decision-maker by throwing in their own two cents after the decision has been made. This causes the leader to back-track his steps, doubt the process and thus change direction like waves tossing a bottle around in the ocean. Fortunately, this scenario could be prevented if not for this next problem…
Decision Bug #2: The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
Communication is highly underrated. Once you’ve nominated a person to say “The buck stops with me,” then pick someone else to clearly communicate the process and who-does-what to the rest of the staff that the decision affects. Just today I was lucky enough to attend another department’s staff meeting. Within that half hour I learned that decisions made during my marketing meeting were not communicated appropriately to this particular department, even though it affected them directly. This is a prime example of employees having no idea what the formal process is or where the buck stops. This delays projects and can cause confusion, indifference or rage (depending on the person).
Decision Bug #3: You expect me to do WHAT?
Newsflash – we’re not Superman. Sometimes our superiors have no idea what our day-to-day life looks like. Communication may play a huge part in getting the left hand & right hand to work together (so to speak) but managing expectations among staff members is key. Take Chris, for example. She works in a bakery and the owner expects to see a stocked shelf of muffins each time he walks into the store. This seems like a natural request, but according to Chris, the problem lies in expectations:
“It is annoying to have my boss expecting to have a cafe full of baked goods when there is only one baker per day and some days there are not enough basic ingredients. A three layer carrot cake CANNOT be prepped, baked, and frosted in an hour. I am only one person and I work at least 9 hours a day. There is only so much product I can produce. ”
Sound familiar? Perhaps if Chris scheduled a meeting with her manager, she could communicate her frustrations and bring some potential fixes to the table. These options could be a) the owner hires another baker b) the owner changes his expectations or c) the owner grabs the cream cheese and helps frost.
My friend Jack designs for a large organization, and he offers some insight into managing expectations with his co-workers:
“The engineer that I work with directly just piles work on my desk. I don’t mind the piling up of work – it’s all got to be done. And I’ll do it all, but I would like to keep it prioritized. Something I like to I ask is, ‘Do you want it right? Or do you want it right now?’”
Working with each other to establish precedence within your to-do list is great advice. I would challenge the decision-makers that if at all possible, be more hands on and involved in your employees’ daily routine. This, along with constructive feedback, communication and an open door policy for your team should go a long way with not only boosting employee morale, but boosting sales as well.
Decision Bug #4: Let’s play a game of guess the right answer!
Let’s be real…even the most self-aware supervisors can have a hard time giving up control. My friend Tim, who plays multiple roles within a small business explains, “I have plenty of personal experiences with the whole ‘OK, we want you to be the point person but you need to run all decisions through me’ sort of thing.” So Tim’s boss hands over the D (aka the power), but he won’t let Tim do what is needed without granting approval first. This creates a stop-start mentality and results in Tim feeling as if his boss doesn’t trust him (which may or may not be true). Personal appeal: Decision-makers, when you appoint us as the leader, give us all your feedback and parameters prior to starting. Then delegate completely, grant us the independence we deserve and trust us to lead our company in the same positive direction you would. That is, if you liked us. Which leads us to…
Decision Bug #5: Stop playing favorites.
It’s no secret that sometimes people are more liked for their likeability factor than their results. “Decisions get made by those who are in the cool club, versus those who have the role or expertise,” says Michelle, who works for a medium-sized agency. I understand how she can feel helpless in managing her department when she isn’t asked for input in decisions affecting her department! The complete opposite end of the spectrum is exemplified by Jane, who works for a similar company. When asked if favoritism played a role in the decisions made at her job, she had this to say:
“I will say, my boss very definitely has favorites, which is not a good thing in general, but since I’m one of her favorites, it works for me. She can be pretty intimidating, so I can’t imagine the fear a non-favorite would have in going to her with an idea.”
This is a shame. We should all be valued for our expertise in our areas and listened to, even if it’s not our final decision.
So there you have it. While unloading all my decision drama on you (I feel better, thanks!) we have actually come to identify Five Decision-Making Do’s: leadership, communication, expectations, equality, trust.
What is your pet peeve when it comes to decision-making? Did I miss anything? Let’s hear it!