It not easy being a boss. And so many of us are in charge because no one else would do it, or we found ourselves here by accident. That said, we all aim to be the best manager we can be, for as often as we can.
Despite our best efforts of trying to do the best and fairest things, sometimes the decisions we make aren’t popular. Every leader needs to be prepared for that, and to be able to cope with the pressure of the team’s response – whatever that is, and however unpredictable it is. Teams will always let you know what they think, indirectly or directly. They can react by withdrawing or being silent and uncooperative, or they can share little complaints or niggles – all the way to something much more dramatic, and difficult to manage.
When you are a leader, you have a team, and most people in that team are constantly watching your every move. They are often thinking: “I wouldn’t have done it like that”, or “that was the wrong decision”, or “if I was the boss I would do it this way”. Other team members simply look on in awe and wonder as leadership would be the last thing they would want to do themselves.
The ability to listen when being a leader is well documented. I’ve said before, that talking gets you into leadership, and listening keeps you there. It is listening that helps you to make decisions, the right decisions, something that is important to remember on those occasions when not everyone likes the decision you inevitability have to make.
Sometimes explaining and demonstrating your decision making process is enough to appease even the most disgruntled team member. Saying things like, I have listened, it wasn’t an easy decision, and I had to balance lots of different issues, but in the end I have decided x, and this may be disappointing for some, but I think it is the right decision to make.
Teams needs leadership and direction, certainly when they are forming or storming (Tuckman 1965). The type or style of decision making you need depends wholly upon the stage of development your team is in. When a team is new or has changed and depends on its leader, you need to be directive, decisive and swift, any dithering now will be disconcerting for the emerging new team. Make the wrong decision at storming stage, when the team is struggling to settle into new routines, and sub teams will be talking about you in the corridors or car parks for weeks. So consulting and listening is key. At the point that roles and routines are emerging, you can consult more and move to a collaborative decision asking process, edging towards democracy. That’s a different matter altogether.
“Often any decision, even the wrong decision, is better than no decision” Ben Horowitz