Imagine (which may not be too hard) that as a result of your team’s hard work and commitment, you reach a pivotal point – a point at which the future of your business could change for the better.
Now you are faced with the challenge of making important decisions, creating innovative plans and taking action. The most critical of these steps is the initial decisions you make, and I’m here to let you in on a secret to success – use your vision, 3-D vision, that is!
Unlike the Euclidean version that may come to mind, this 3-D experience is defined by three essential elements: discuss, debate and decide. Each element forms the foundation for execution success and goal achievement. Neglecting even one component will compromise the outcome of your opportunity.
The most valuable discussions are those of dialogue as opposed to dissertation, and the most productive dialogues occur in two steps.
First, state the opportunity in clear, un-biased terms. With a mindset of respect and equality (organizational hierarchy has no place here), encourage free-thinking and sharing from the team members about how best to maximize this opportunity if it should even be pursued. Provoke constructive controversy and resist any propensity for judgmental commentary. Seek to stretch perspective beyond the status quo and mitigate potentially limiting beliefs. Doing this step first will engender thoughtful regard and trust among the team members and open the door to creativity and innovation.
Second, add structure to the dialogue. Take a closer look at each of the contributions to the discussion so far and apply objective questions to all of them. What are the potential consequences, intended and otherwise; who will be involved and feel the effects, for better or worse; what’s the value of the “extraordinary” opportunity to all those involved? Think of this step as a culling process where the most valid contributions are identified and clarified for subsequent debate.
Having shared an intellectually curious, thoughtful discussion, it’s time to take sides – literally.
Debate is essentially a well-reasoned, respectful, even passionate argument. Debate the proposed positions and discussion points from each plausible perspective. The goal is discovery. Through deep inquiry, clear and thorough presentation and thoughtful rebuttal, answers to questions that otherwise would not likely come to mind are brought to light. Perhaps even more revealing is the discovery of questions behind the questions – the things you were unaware you didn’t know. Debate where and how a proposed course of action might fail, how it might succeed, is it even feasible, and so on. And, above all else, listen with the same intensity others reserve for speaking. It will pay dividends even beyond the decision you choose.
Finally, after all the discussion and enlightened debate, it’s time to choose. This does not mean defeat nor acquiescence for anyone. For even those who “lost” the debate will ultimately win with a great decision made. It means to commit – completely and clear-mindedly for everyone. This is not a place for compliance. Commitment necessitates regard for the process you’ve completed and respect for the people with whom you’ve processed. What does this look like down the road? Unity of command – when in the moment the decision that was made is challenged by circumstances or individuals, you stand by the decision you made as a team and present it as your own, without caveat or condition.
How will you know your decision was the “right” decision and even a great decision? Fair question – perhaps not the best question, however. The more compelling question is, “How will you lead in the wake of the decision you made?” Great leaders do far more than make great decisions. They deal with consequences, they focus, they listen, they navigate the unpredictable course of life, and in so doing they inspire those they lead to make their own great decisions.