End Meeting Madness: Decide How to Decide
In a senior leadership team retreat last week, decision-making and meeting effectiveness emerged as a barrier during our moose hunting exercise.

Meetings are more important than ever in our complex and interconnected world. Research clearly shows that when run effectively, groups make better decisions than individuals do. Effective meetings involve and engage participants in problem-solving and planning.

But too many meetings are ineffective. Many are a disaster. That’s why many people hate meetings. How often do you hear comments like, “I could get a lot more of my work done if it wasn’t for all these *#**! meetings?” Participants who continually experience poorly run meetings see them as a waste of time. That’s often because… they are.

Confusion around meeting decision-making trips up many meeting leaders. There are three basic ways along the “3 C continuum” for a team or group to make a decision:

  1. Command – made by the manager, project, or team leader with little input from other team members.
  2. Consultative – made by the manager, project, or team leader after consulting others who have expertise to share or need to own implementing the decision.
  3. Consensus – made by the entire team as a group through either “majority rules” or unanimous agreement.

The further the team moves toward the consensus end of the continuum, the more buy-in or commitment there is to the decision. Decision-making time is longer. But implementation time and effectiveness dramatically improve.

A common source of frustration and conflict is when the type of decision-making method being used isn’t clear to everyone at the outset of the discussion. Meeting leaders will often add to the problem by leading what seems to be a consultative or even consensus discussion when he or she has already made up his or her mind. This comes across as a “guess what I am thinking?” exercise. Or it can look like the leader is trying to manipulate the team into the “right decision.”

Less effective managers, project or team leaders with weak leadership skills will intimidate team members into “forced consensus” (an oxymoron) and leave the discussion genuinely believing that the team is united in the decision.

Some agenda items are for information, and some are updates. But whenever decisions are needed, avoid confusion – and lots of frustration – by ensuring everyone is clear about the type of decision-making process you’re using.

Further Reading