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Who decides?

Working in teams can be both energizing and challenging. One of the greatest challenges comes when you are making decisions. Who really decides? Do we need to have consensus?  Does the group need to agree on every decision or just major ones?  Is it possible to move forward together when most people agree and a few disagree?

Here are a few ideas when it comes to deciding who decides and how to keep the group working together well throughout the decision-making process.

  1. Consider the decisions that will need to be made as a team.  Depending upon the team or partnership, these will vary considerably. Do you need to make group decisions related to developing goals, objectives or strategies?  Do you need to make decisions about your priority goals and objectives? Maybe the strategies to implement?  You may need to make decisions about membership in the team or partnership. Perhaps you need to decide how you will implement research procedures or how you will spend the remaining budget.  Think about the decisions that need to be made collectively vs. individually.
  2. Talk about it.  I know this might seem obvious, but there are often a lot of assumptions about decision-making, but no one has taken the time to discuss it with the group. Once you have considered the types of decisions that need to be made, it is important to discuss this with your team.  Propose the types of decisions that need to be made as a team, as well as the process for deciding, and get feedback. If there are some decisions that will be made by the leader or executive director and that you do not plan on making as a team, then communicate that clearly with the team as well. I recommend doing this in person or at least via video chat with everyone’s cameras on so that you can see the non-verbal communication during the discussion. For some groups, this can happen organically and the discussion can fairly easily move to a decision about decision-making. 🙂  Other groups may need an outside, neutral facilitator to guide the group through the conversation and help them come up with a plan.  Part of the decision-making discussion may also include defining roles and responsibilities.  Next week, we’ll discuss that aspect further.
  3. Write it down.  This can be in the form of a formal “memorandum of understanding” or a “memorandum of agreement” or it may be more informal, such as a follow-up email that outlines expectations and decision making processes.
  4. Stick to it.  Again, this may seem really obvious, but it can be easy to have the conversation about decision making and then do things differently based on a deadline with a short turnaround or a desire to be more efficient.  If you take the time to decide as a group, respect those group decisions and figure out a way to keep those commitments. One of the best ways to do this is to determine your process for decision-making during very tight timelines or quick turn arounds.  You may send an email or a a quick survey if you don’t have time to meet.  You can simply ask your team to reply with “approve” or “disapprove” to your email. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it is very important to respect the decision-making process and the decisions if you want your team to keep working together well.

So what about you? What have you found to work well with deciding who decides what?  Or perhaps what hasn’t worked so well?

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Photo by Pablo García Saldaña on Unsplash

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