Your Effectiveness by Facilitating Decision-Making
By Angel Gomez, President,
AG Gomez Consulting, LLC
When I made
the transition into a Chief HR Officer role
for a division of Walmart Stores, Inc.
in 2006, no one warned me about the chaos associated
with senior leadership meetings. Suddenly, I
found myself getting called into meeting after
meeting to endlessly “discuss” issues
of apparent importance to the business. I had
no idea what my role was in relation to the
senior leadership team or how to contribute
to the resolution of issues. Decision-making
was chaotic, and, worst of all, I was ineffective
and knew that would impact my ability to perform
in the HR function.
So, I made
it my mission to instill a little discipline
into the business and bring some order to the
meeting process. I took a calculated risk and
began to actively facilitate the decision-making
process of my business leaders. It was the best
practice I ever employed in adding value to
the business. Since leaving the corporate world,
I have taught this practice to thousands of
leaders around the world to help them maximize
Challenges of Making Decisions in a Business
Most of the business leaders you serve understand
the need to include other people in making decisions,
even when they are empowered to make the decision
themselves. That understanding and their interest
in being “inclusive” motivates leaders
to get more people involved in the process.
But getting too many people involved creates
an entirely new set of problems: Decisions take
too long; disagreement ensues; conflict remains
unresolved; nothing gets done; etc.
natural inclination of some leaders is to get
the least amount of people involved to control
the process. They, quite purposefully, let only
certain people know important information and
leave other key stakeholders out of the decision-making
process. This creates an entirely different
set of problems: Decisions are put on hold or
stopped; stakeholders get upset; trust erodes;
the challenge of making decisions. Leaders know
it’s important to get others involved,
but getting too many people involved causes
problems, so they exclude key stakeholders from
the process, causing even more problems. The
solution to this challenge is finding both the
right number and the right people to include
for any given decision depending on how much
buy-in the leader needs for that decision.
Level One Decision-Making – Make the Call
Level One Decision-Making simply involves the
leader making the decision alone without input.
It’s a perfectly good way to make a decision.
Level One does not require any buy-in from anyone.
It requires only that others comply with the
is appropriate when the leader has most, if
not all, the information and expertise necessary
to make the decision. It’s quick and (hopefully)
clear, which is important because most executives
have little time to waste.
Level One, however, has unintended consequences.
If leaders consistently fail to get others involved
in decisions, they will quickly develop a reputation
as a dictator. Moreover, they may fail to consider
other important data and perspectives to help
them make better decisions.
Two Decision-Making – Seek Some Input
Level Two Decision-Making involves getting other
perspectives and opinions from individual stakeholders
before making a final decision. Here, the leader
may have some point of view or no point of view
at all about what action to take and calls on
a few individuals to help him or her make the
is appropriate when a leader is simply not sure
about the right course of action. In calling
on others, the leader gains additional data
and opinion points that may shed some light.
Other information or unforeseen consequences
could also arise.
however, drawbacks to using Level Two. For example,
key stakeholders whose input is required may
not be available. Personal agendas may come
into play. One of the biggest dangers is calling
on those that are either not qualified or are
“go to” people who always agree
with the leader.
Three Decision-Making – Call a Meeting
Level Three Decision-Making is the most popular
method of decision-making in North America.
It takes the form of the ubiquitous and dreaded
meeting. At this level, the leader calls key
stakeholders into a room, conference call or
videoconference so that the decision-making
process takes place all at once, supposedly.
works because all stakeholders are present to
have a dialogue and provide input, in real time,
to the leader. It promotes efficient communication,
robust debate and allows for everyone to contribute
his or her perspective.
hates meetings, generally speaking. They take
up too much time and no one has time to waste.
They end up as pointless discussions without
ever reaching an end. They are poorly run without
a purpose or desired outcomes.
Four Decision-Making – Get Consensus
Level Four Decision-Making is making decisions
by consensus. Consensus is reached when every
stakeholder can support the decision that the
group makes together. That is distinguished
from unanimous agreement, in which everyone
must agree with the decision. This is a nuanced
and important distinction.
works because everyone can get behind the decision.
Great leaders prefer getting 100% of the team
behind the 80% solution vs. 51% of the team
behind the 100% solution. Why? There is a greater
likelihood of success in execution in the former
than the latter.
takes an extraordinary amount of time to reach.
In many circumstances consensus cannot be reached,
and so it’s important to have a fallback
position on decision-making, e.g., Level One–Three.
Five Decision-Making – Delegate
Level Five Decision-Making involves delegating
the decision to another person or to a group
of people, with clear guidelines and limitations.
Delegation, however, is not abdication, and
the leader must remain involved to coach and
ensure the original guidelines and limitations
are being honored.
is a wonderful way to develop the decision-making
capabilities of others in the organization.
Those to whom the decision is delegated to are
fully bought in and fully involved. Perhaps
most beneficial is that delegation frees up
the leader’s time to focus on other priorities
while other critical work is handled by the
is not always a good method of decision-making.
It’s fraught with peril, especially for
those control freaks out there. Delegation to
those that lack capability will ensure failure.
the Decision-Making Process of Your Business
The one thing you can do, starting today, to
maximize your effectiveness as a senior leader
is facilitate the decision-making process for
your senior leadership teams. Your business
leaders look to you for advice on all sorts
of matters, not just HR issues.