The Impact of Leadership on Better Team Decision Making

Strong team decision making is key to any productive team. Without the right decisions, mistakes happen. Without the correct speed of decision making, the project either grinds to a halt, or moves too quickly causing issues. Even though the quality of decision making within your team can literally make or break your success, we rarely pay attention to how we make decisions – in this mini-series, we are going to break it down into easy, actionable steps.

Before you can elevate the decisions of your team, you have to consider how you make decisions as the leader, and what that teaches your team. Without strong leadership, teams often struggle to make good decisions. As a leader, especially as your team grows, it can be difficult to find a balance in your team decision making. Of the leaders we work with – they are either striving for consensus which slows down decision making, or on the other end of the scale, they take on all of the decision making, overloading themselves and leaving others feeling a lack of ownership and empowerment.

There are a lot of models out there about how to make better decisions, but at the root of really solid decision making is discovering the motives behind your decisions. In this post we are going to focus on some key questions you can ask yourself to sense check your decision making, and in doing so, make better decisions for your team.

Am I seeking reward or validation?

It is important to detach yourself from reward or validation in order to really make objective decisions. Often we have to make decisions that aren’t popular, but are for the greater good of the business, or team. This could look like:

Motive Based Decision:  “I don’t really agree with that new policy, but since it came from the Managing Director, I should just roll it out because he will be happier if I don’t question it.”

Conscious Decision: “I don’t think that policy will work from my experience, and from things I have witnessed with the wider team, I am going to feed that back to the MD, and request we sit down and discuss a different solution.”

Am I distorting reality to force the story I want to be true?

Often we subconsciously delete, distort or generalise information to make things “fit” our ideal. The key with this is to keep firmly in the facts of the situation and not allow yourself to get caught up in storytelling. By focussing on the facts, you can remain objective and see the situation more clearly, instead of getting caught up in the emotion that could drive a poor decision.

Motive Based Decision: “I can’t believe my team member did that, they must think I’m stupid. I have been wanting to get rid of them anyway, and this just proves I am right to do so.”

Conscious Decision: “That situation was really frustrating, and I really need to address this. I haven’t actually sat down and discussed how I see things with this team member and what I need to see from them from an improvement standpoint, I should do that and then see if there is a way to move forward.”

Am I looking for something that justifies what I want to do, but doesn’t address any concerns?

This is where the emotion often kicks in and we can make rash, emotional decisions – pay attention to any concerns and map them through logically, before making a decision.

Motive Based Decision: “We have too much work, I need to hire someone now, that person I met this morning seems OK. I should probably meet them again and dig a little deeper into fit with the role but I don’t have time – let’s just get them in and see what happens.”

Conscious Decision: “I am not sure this is the right person, let’s continue to talk to more people and in the interim look at how we may be able to re-distribute the work we have, or adjust our schedule of work to make it more manageable. Let’s get the team together and look at this.”

Am I counting on things outside of my control and running after a fantasy?

There are times for risk, and sometimes you will make decisions based on things outside of your control, but you need to be fully aware of that and put in place safeguards around it. It’s important to keep your eyes open and have a plan in place for the elements you can impact.

Motive Based Decision: “This office is amazing, let’s get it, I know it’s a lot bigger than we need, but I’m sure we will grow into it.”

Conscious Decision: “What extra work would it take for us to justify the extra cost? How many additional heads could we fit in? What realistically what are our timescales for an office like this?”

Know Yourself

Depending on your dominant behavioural patterns, you will typically fall into one of two camps when it comes to speed of decision making: some wait too long, others jump too soon, equally when it comes to your process – some like to gather feedback from others first, others just make the decision independently.

The key is to be aware of your dominant style and stay conscious in how it impacts each decision. The above four questions are useful to use as a reference point to cross check your decision making – it isn’t to say that if you answer yes that you wouldn’t proceed, but any “yes” answers will just require some extra consideration to make sure you are making conscious, instead of motive, based decisions.

In the next post, we are going to look at some of the key behavioural patterns that come into play in team decision making, and how both your behaviours as a leader, and those of your team, will impact the outcome of decision making.

If you’re looking to further develop your leadership skills, we designed a free online leadership programme you might be interested in. Although this was designed during the COVID-19 pandemic to support leaders in navigating their team through uncertainty, it covers some of the core leadership principles that are relevant at any stage in your leadership journey.