I have been discussing my leadership list in depth, and we are up to number three. My list is a response to Google’s research on the qualities of exceptional teams, as described in Project Aristotle. Here is the list with the bullet points that I’ve discussed so far.
Kathy’s Leadership List
- Be present, and show that you care.
- Focus on keeping your mind present during conversations and meetings.
- Use good nonverbal communication to assure people that you are listening.
- Show interest in people’s activities outside of work.
- Maintain appropriate boundaries for personal discussions.
- Enforce and model respect for self and others.
- Watch vigilantly for situations that make a person or group feel a lack of respect.
- Talk to employees and peers about disrespectful behavior in an appropriate setting.
- Behave scrupulously, in a way that always shows respect for others.
- Establish Designed Alliances whenever possible so that respectful behavior is explicitly defined, expected, and required.
- Include others in decision-making as much as possible.
- Ensure individual and team goals are clear and in alignment with organizational goals.
- Be consistent, dependable, and positive in your actions, attitude, and mindset.
- Make curiosity your default.
So, let’s discuss number three.
Include others in decision-making as much as possible. People like to have control over things. I have never met a person in my trainings or coaching who wants no control over how he or she spends his or her time.
When we make unilateral decisions and tell people what they have to do, it usually results in some resentment. Maybe it makes us feel like children who don’t have a say in what happens. We definitely don’t feel that our opinions or needs are valued when our input is not considered.
Including others in the decision-making process is also a great way to create positive relationships. I believe that I’ve mentioned before that creating and maintaining positive relationships is one of the hallmarks of great leadership. There are other benefits, as well.
First, we make better decisions when we have more information. When I work with groups that are having trouble making a decision together, each person has an idea of the problem and the solution. We put everyone’s ideas, feelings, and perspectives out on the table for everyone to consider. We always come up with a better solution than any one that a person brought with them because we are working with all of the information and brainpower of the group.
Second, people have more buy-in. We don’t really get behind decisions if we didn’t have any influence at all during the deciding phase. The best way to get people motivated about a decision is to let them be a part of the process of making it. In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink points out that autonomy is one way to motivate others. We want to make others feel as in control of their time and day as possible.
If you cannot take anyone’s ideas or feelings into account, make it clear that it’s a done deal. If you just don’t want to, think again. We don’t show strength when we make decisions to look decisive. We show strength when we have enough confidence and grace to ask the opinions of others.
It’s especially important to ask for the opinions and feelings of people whom we believe will disagree with us. One, they may have some really good points that we haven’t considered. Two, we develop positive relationships when we meet someone’s personal needs, which are to be listened to, understood and respected. You will notice that the list does not include “agreed with.” Most people are happy if they feel that you have fully understood their thoughts and feelings and considered them with an open mind, even if you ultimately disagree.
Once we make a decision, it’s important to share the rationale behind it. If we didn’t take someone’s suggestion, it’s best to let them know as soon as possible and to tell them why. If there isn’t a good reason not to take someone’s suggestion, I would suggest doing it. When we are open to the influence of others, we strengthen our relationships with them.
When working with leaders, the biggest obstacle that I see to a more collaborative decision-making process is a lack of time. It is much faster to make a decision and move on. However, the resulting lack of motivation and sometimes vehement objections from people expected to implement a plan on which they had no influence will take a lot of a leader’s time. A simple conversation and a few questions can go a long way toward saving time in the long run.
Here are the bullet points to remember:
- People like control. Great leaders give others control as much as possible. Autonomy is motivating.
- Meeting people’s personal needs to be listened to, understood, and respected creates positive relationships.
- We make better decisions with more information. People who don’t agree with us can have valuable information to share.
- After making a decision, a leader should share the reasons behind the decision and their feelings about it.
- Inclusive decision-making saves more time in the long run.
Everything on my leadership list fosters psychological safety. When we listen and value the feelings and opinions of others, we are creating the safe space needed for psychological safety.
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