LEADERS ARE OFTEN conflicted. On one hand they want to engage their people in discussions in order to gain good ideas and buy-in, and on the other leaders want to make the final decision because they have a clear idea how something should be done.
What leaders really need to do is to be clear and consistent with their expectations. When an employee is told “today I want everyone to share their ideas” the assumption is they also get to help make the decision. Yet, a leader who says “I want your ideas, but I will make the final decision” is concerned they will appear autocratic, uncaring and unengaging.
This is the furthest from the truth. There are times when group decision making is appropriate and when it is not. For example, when the topic does not involve high stakes, or all the employees have an equal understanding of the topic, consensus can work. Yet, as the saying goes, too many cooks in the kitchen can make a mess, so be sure the number of people in a decision doesn’t become too many. Jon Katzenbach in his book, The Wisdom of Teams, says the right number for a high performing team is between 7 and 12 – partly for the reason smaller groups can arrive at a decision better than larger ones.
There is a difference between the discussion and the decision. Leaders can ask their people to provide their ideas, but they also need to clarify how and who will make the decision. When leaders are clear and consistent, employees can settle into their roles and provide the needed value.