Group Decision Making - Inclusion and Psychological Safety

Are there ways for companies to improve their group decision-making? Here are some practical tips on how to plan/implement best practices as well as psychological elements that should be taken into account.

I teach humanistic leadership, behavioral science techniques and have over 30 years in executive leadership.

1st - Good decision making. “Good” is a moral value judgement. You have to define what good means to the group.  What is a good outcome?  Only then you can look at your options and weigh them against the ideal.  This step – helps eliminate a lot of conflict in group decision making. Often what happens is different people have different ideas of what good means. When you get everyone into agreement on what a “good” result is – you can more easily gain consensus. 

Let me give you an example. I used to work in the tower industry. What constituted a “good” tower to maintenance – was a tower that was in good shape and didn’t need much work.  What constituted a “good” tower to marketing was a tower in a good location for their customers.  What constituted a “good” tower to accounting – was a tower that was generating more cash flow then debt.  Until you get all 3 stakeholder groups into agreement on what a “good” tower is – there will be squabbling.  And yes – this is a real example from my past – it was finally agreed upon that if we were generating more cash flow then debt – then costs to upgrade the tower were irrelevant as we were already net positive.  If there was less cash flow than debt – then we needed to consider whether there was any marketing growth at this location and how much maintenance costs we would have to put in to get that growth. Consensus through integration of all concerns– made all the other decisions easier. We grew to be a half billion-dollar company.

2nd – Involving ALL stakeholders. It is very easy to make decisions alone. In fact – there is a reason why many people do this. Getting consensus among people with different ideas of what “good” is – is hard.  But it’s a mistake.  You don’t know what you don’t know and not knowing things leads to poor decisions. Bringing in all the stakeholders (from lowest to highest paid) helps ensure that everyone is on board with the plan. It also helps ensure that you aren’t blind to major issues. Diversity is good for decision making.

3rd – Dealing with diversity problems in decision making. Having a discussion on what is “good” with a diverse group of people is often quite difficult. We all have blind spots.  We think our opinion is the most important opinion. Sorting all that out – takes humility, patience and dignity.  Dignity is an interesting word. You have to act with dignity yourself and give dignity to people you disagree with.  Most people aren’t really capable of this – or rather – they don’t have a lot of practice – acting with dignity and giving dignity to others. But it’s key to sorting out differences and helping a diverse group – become cohesive – while allowing space for all those diverse opinions.

So … how do you do this? Pragmatically? 

By acknowledging dignity violations. Everyone has been hurt at some point. Some  - more than others.  People coming from marginalized backgrounds (whether it’s gender, race, disability, poverty – or whatever), probably have felt like their dignity has been violated more than others.   Creating space for and acknowledging those violations – helps people feel heard. Helps them feel like their dignity is being acknowledged and helps them move past the past violations so that they can work collaboratively in the present. 

This really does work. But to do it – you first have to acknowledge your own feelings of hurt. Understand that you are in charge of your own dignity. No one has the ability to take it from you. You either act with dignity or you don’t. Claim your dignity. Then – help others claim theirs. Then – the first conversation about what constitutes a “good” outcome – becomes much easier.

Let me know if you have any questions.  In the meantime, if you want to learn more - I have a variety of professional development courses that can help you learn these skills for yourself. 

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