Making it safe to be accountable!

Written by Arlo Belshee

Does your team fail to meet or renegotiate commitments? In other words, do they struggle to be accountable? Do they struggle to make decisions? And then when you help them decide, do they continue to question the decision?

This is common. And it is fixable.

While we don’t see and feel the problem until we act on a decision, the problem actually occurred during the choose part of the process. To change this, don’t focus all that energy on the decision … simply make sure that everybody needing to act are aligned in their purpose, behavior, and how they will adjust when they discover new information. This alignment, however, appears to take longer to make the decision.

This 4-week blog series on decision-making will discuss faster ways to make a decision, but right now, it’s important to recognise the reality of decision making, and how we can gain most of the value regardless of any other strategy by one simple fix: take the time to check for alignment.

Alignment check

We each agree:

  1. that it is safe to disagree.
  2. to our written purpose.
  3. to the first actions to take.
  4. how we will change the decision as we gain new information.

Struggling with power dynamics? Often when managers are present it can produce a “false positive” on alignment. The lower-power people simply withdraw their consent by not contributing or mumble agreement, often compelled to do so. Then, once the decision is made, the problem of executing the decision becomes apparent because they are not in true alignment. They have the power now because they are the ones doing the action. And you are left micromanaging them.

So what can you do to check for enthusiastic consent? What behaviors are you doing that encourage others to quietly withdraw consent? How could you decrease the pain in letting the decision remain unmade for longer, so that those enacting it will be fully aligned?

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