Everyday leadership: Too many decision makers can slow progress

My family’s periodic family reunion was held in the Smokey Mountains in mid-July where we rented three large cabins to house our group. One was separated from the others by a pretty mountain stream; another sat on higher ground and the third on lower ground. With all the activities and the separation of cabins, evening meals cooked on grills were prepared at different times and locations.

After supper the first night, Sylvia and some of her clan walked down to our cabin and we enjoyed pleasant conversation. Our family is very open with our communication but distance limits the information flow somewhat. This was a time to catch up.

The second night, we all gathered at Sylvia’s cabin around a roaring fire to process the daily events and other eclectic topics. Our third and last night together consisted of a birthday celebration with cake for my son, Elijah, and my niece, Alexandria, whose birthdays were immediately before and after our trip respectively.

Toward the end of that evening, we engaged in a decision-making process regarding planning our next get-together. Previously, we had decided to hold reunions every three years, but my brother Jack wanted to expedite the span to every other year. With a crackling fire the center of our gathering, each family member was given the floor to express his/her opinions. A five-year sequence was offered moving us in the opposite direction as Jack intended by bringing the subject up. Others agreed with Jack and still others suggested keeping our present three-year approach.

Finally, one of my nieces suggested we utilize Survey Monkey, a free website designed to survey a group on a particular issue. Once we all returned home, we each received an e-mail with two questions. One question concerned the timeframe of reunions and the other involved ideas for the desired location for the next reunion. The results are pending but I think all will be acceptable to the consensus of the majority.

Decision making is a part of life. We do it as individuals and in groups. Some decisions are significant, important, or critical. Others are almost reflexive in nature. However, most of our decisions impact our lives in some manner. For decision making to be successful in groups, there are several elements to consider.

First, all parties must understand the parameters of the issue at hand and the change various options may incur. Second, all group members should feel they have a say in the outcome. Third, the appropriate data must be gathered and made available to the decision makers. Finally, problem-solving and decision-making tools and the available technology that fits the issue need to be employed.

The Survey Monkey website was an easy way to identify the needs and desires of our family. The results of that survey may allow us to select a successful path forward or lead to additional discussions and the best choices. A great number of decisions in organizations are costly mistakes. The best leaders plan a process for decision making in order to create more positive action plans to which the whole group can commit.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of “The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success,” visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.