It was late one afternoon and I was on a conference call with an executive who had recently left his company. He was a good leader – competent, hardworking, with a solid track record. We were in the midst of completing a cultural analysis to determine the type of company culture for which he would be best suited. The executive wanted to be sure not to find himself in the same situation as his past job going forward.

It had been a good conversation. He was thoughtful and articulate. We began discussing the topic of decision making, taking a look at previous companies and what the ideal company would look like. The energy of the conversation suddenly rose exponentially. “That was the problem – that was my biggest frustration! That’s what drove my increased avoidance with the leadership team, my growing lack of engagement. We just couldn’t make a decision. When we did it took forever and within weeks what had been decided was virtually undecided by either passive-aggressive behavior or complete lack of execution.”

The ability to make decisions that are timely, based on relevant facts and are supported by action is a fundamental skill for any team, but most importantly for a leadership team. The skill of efficiently making a decision however isn’t something that just materializes for people. There are basic building blocks that must be in place to support a person’s ability to make these decisions. Starting with trust and adding dialogue is a good place to begin. Let’s take a look at the definition of both.
Trust – a firm belief that a person or thing may be relied upon; confident expectation, firm belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, justice, etc. of another person or thing.
Dialogue – conversation, discussion between representatives, versus a monologue defined as a long speech by one person.

As many of you know, I am a big fan of Patrick Lencioni. In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he describes characteristics of teams that have built trust. Among them are:

Take risks in offering feedback and assistance
Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics
Accept questions and input about their areas of responsibility

Each of these characteristics concerning trust can be accomplished through dialogue. Conversations that are composed of both listening for understanding and dialogue to communicate critical data are the most effective routes that will lead to the capability of making and sticking to the best possible decisions for the company. If you find yourself in a meeting that is dominated by a series of monologues the chance of you reaching the best, executable decision will be greatly minimized.
The next time your team is in the process of making a decision, ask yourself these questions:

Did we have the pertinent facts needed to make the decision?
Did everyone weigh in?
Was there a healthy debate?
Did we understand what was at risk?
Did we assign responsibility to carry out the decision?

Once you have clarified the criteria needed to make a solid decision through dialogue, trust your team to make the decision and empower them to execute.

Author's Bio: 

Julia Hill-Nichols, SPHR, is the founder of LeadersCove, LLC. With over 30 years experience in operations and human capital management, Julia is gifted in the art and science of bridging strategic imperatives and a company’s human capabilities—executing for success, meeting bottom-line objectives and enlivening the people who are the organization’s lifeblood.

She has held the role of Senior Vice President, Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company, midsize companies and software start-ups. Much of her experience has been in the software, financial and insurance industries, representing significant merger, acquisition and divestiture activities.In addition, Julia is certified to administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Step I and II, the OPTM360 and the Denison Organizational Cultural Assessment.

Throughout her professional career, Julia has acted as an internal consultant to executive leadership teams, managers and emerging leaders as they strive to build successful companies, bringing out the very best in all staff.