Do you have the right culture for effective decision-making?

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If you ask someone whether such a culture exists in their workplace, many will say ‘Of course or how else would we get things done around here?’ The truth of the matter is that people may be making decisions but they could be the wrong ones or simply not effective and timely.

The culture of your organisation is key. Ask yourself:

  • Do I have an environment that allows for creative thinking?
  • Do I have an environment that is filled with honest, respectful communication and trust?

Yes? – fantastic. Not sure? Then read on.

Research shows that trust is the foundation in effective leader/subordinate relationships. Core foundations are competence, knowledge and skills, underpinned by the interpersonal connection and ethical principles that are demonstrated. On the flip side, research also shows that the leader / subordinate relationship is the biggest cause of stress in the workplace.

To enhance the relationship, the leader’s style is fundamental for how members of their team flourish and grow. 

Directive or aggressive?

A culture where a directive or aggressive style of leadership is acceptable, is a culture that restricts decision making.

When leaders are directive – they ‘tell’. When they are more interested in ‘telling’, they are less likely to listen.

When they behave like that, people eventually stop thinking for themselves. They stop making suggestions, as they never get heard. And eventually they just wait for the leader to make the decision for them. Even if the leader gets to a point in time where they want people to be making decisions, they feel people are not thinking for themselves and are not effective.  So the leader ends up having to make more and more of the decisions as time goes on. The end result, is the leader ends up being so busy having to make all of the decisions and double checking everything to sure that the tasks gets done, they stop thinking about what they need to do to develop people and their capability.  After all, if people had any potential worth developing they would be able to make decisions for themselves in the first place wouldn’t they!   A vicious cycle.

When leaders are aggressive, it instills an element of fear in their people. When we are in fear of reprisal for getting something wrong, we become afraid to make a decision and take action. Our ‘emotional brain’ takes charge with its mission to keep us safe and away from doing something that might result in a painful experience.

So we avoid it or become ‘frozen’ – completely unable to take timely action for fear of the reaction that may come back at us from the leader if we get it wrong. For some, that can feel like the wrath of Khan coming down on them - and no one would deliberately sign up for that!

A decision-making culture?

So if you want top performance, creativity and effective decision-making – make sure your culture allows for it. 

To get that kind of culture requires a genuine interest in people.  It requires effective policies and top leadership.  Make sure you give people clarity of what is expected of them.  How do you do that?  Put some key things in place:

  • Establish your company values and develop an effective competency framework that underpins them. 
  • Have a performance management system in place that allows for cascade of objectives so everyone knows how their role and achievements underpin the business strategy and goals.
  • Develop appropriate mechanisms for recognition and praise. 
  • Establish development plans that allow individuals to learn, grow and step up to their full potential. 
  • Give clarity of career paths so people know what they are striving for.
  • Develop your leaders with the skills to listen and communicate effectively so they have the ability to coach and develop others in order that they stretch their thinking and capability.
  • Establish a foundation of trust, where employees know that if they get something wrong they can learn from mistakes and continuously improve. 

Be brave and undertake an employee opinion survey that gives you feedback on your business and especially on what they think of their managers and your top team.  When you get the results of that, if it is apparent that you have ‘pockets’ of a leadership style that doesn’t allow for an effective decision making culture, maybe you need to do something with your leaders so you can release the potential of others? 

If you can do that, you will release the potential of the many rather than the few.


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