Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Inclusivity, engagement, participation, integration, consultation et al are touted as necessary attributes in achieving a unified organisational vision, collegiality and trust. Few would argue with this. However, I believe that this is only possible if all stakeholders know what the delegations of responsibility and authority are. Where does the buck stop? What is my role? What is the role of everyone else in my organisation?
Importantly, if we are intent on creating truly inclusive cultures, how do we avoid the disproportionate influence of the most senior person making the final decision on something (read most of the time)? If you are the most senior person in the organisation, how do you lead with decisiveness and inclusivity? The Coaching Kata reveals how often we make a statement with a question mark on the end of it – a faux question to be ‘inclusive’. Upon learning of this, I was red-faced when reflecting on how often I have done this, unconsciously.
The title of this article comes from a statement an associate made to me some years ago. It got me thinking about what is required to achieve a symbiotic relationship between inclusivity in planning and decision-making, while avoiding the peril of ‘too many cooks’? It can be argued that the decision should be made based purely on the ‘best idea’ to achieve the objective. Fair enough, but, who gets to decide on what or who is ‘best’?
Listening is a leader’s key attribute in encouraging multiple perspectives. It allows colleagues an authentic opportunity to participate, especially our more reserved colleagues. Often they have much to offer but do not compete in the ‘I know best’ and ‘I can speak the loudest’ style of conversation that is omnipresent in organisations and decision-making.
In my effort to be a more mindful participant in decision-making (regardless of my stratum in the hierarchy), I focus on asking better questions, instead of constantly giving the answer - assuming that the answer I give is even valid! Dr. Tim London suggests, “Don't come with models and solutions, come with questions and engagement”. Former First National Bank CEO and founder of Bank Zero, Michael Jordaan notes factually, “It takes very little effort to reject an idea. It is far tougher to engage with it, especially if it clashes with your own world view or emotional reaction.” Indeed.
The title of this article suggests that we facilitate a democracy (inclusivity) until the time for a decision has arrived, and then typically we employ the ‘smarts’ of an individual’s decisiveness. I posit that we can achieve collegiality (democracy) and decisiveness collectively. How? Through an organisational and decision-making culture that welcomes multiple perspectives and isn’t seduced or intimidated by hierarchy in arriving, together, at a unanimously agreed ‘best’ decision to achieve the desired objective.
A mistake I made repeatedly in prior years is believing that if I held the most senior position in a system, then it was my responsibility to make the decisions and ensure they were executed accordingly. The wisdom of hindsight, and some frank feedback from colleagues, has revealed that this is a flawed belief and the antithesis of inclusivity, engagement, participation, integration and consultation.
It seldom happens that a simple and seemingly magical solution is all that is required for a complicated problem. Rather than hoping for one that will find a balance for us between inclusivity and monocratic decision-making, we must rather use mindfulness of self, others and the context to discern when to lead or follow, or stay out of the way.