Every day we make important decisions. To complicate matters, important decisions often involve other people. At work, we sit in a meeting deciding whether to employ someone, which supplier to use, or whether to open another branch in another city etc. Despite organisation specific protocols regarding selection, procurement or operations, making decisions becomes more complicated (notwithstanding the decision that needs to be made) when you add more people into the equation. Why is this the case? Well, when you have more than one person and the stakes are high, a number of factors, including each person’s personality style, problem solving style, technical stance, experience level, role in the organisation, and politics come into play (among many other factors). If you ever find yourself in a position where you need to make a decision with other people, you can think back to these 5 handy tips that will help you to help facilitate decision making in your group.

1. Understand the role you play.

Understanding your role will help you to understand the ways in which you can influence the process. If you are the manager you have some kind of ‘control’ over the process but that does not necessarily mean that you have all the answers and if you do have the answers it does not necessarily mean that you have buy-in. Whether as the manager or a team member, ways to influence the process of arriving at a shared decision would be to ask the right questions every step of the way (e.g. what, why, who, when, how), getting people to think about the context and the implications of any decision(s) being made. No matter the role you play you can contribute to the outcome, by facilitating dialogue - making sure all perspectives are out in the open.

2. Be clear about what decisions need to be made.

It’s always possible that many of the ‘decision makers’ are unsure about what decision actually needs to be made. Try to ensure that everyone is on the same page through your discussions. The more you talk, the more likely there will be a shared understanding regarding the context and the decision that needs to be made. Get consensus on the following question: "What do we really want?"

3. Be prepared.

If the decision being made forms part of a pre-planned session, be sure that you have all the right information to inform the decisions that need to be made. Sometimes you need to be prepared, to be flexible - when you have to back-track or re-assess the issue at hand.

4. Be aware of your group.

Be aware of the people sitting in on the session, their roles in the team/organisation, as well as the interpersonal dynamics of the group. Interpersonal dynamics are important to take into consideration as this could guide the way in which you could approach certain tasks. For example, if the team is looking for a creative yet practical solution to something you may consider putting two people together based on their problem solving styles.

5. Discuss the way forward.

Once a decision is made, ensure that everyone understands the implications of the decision and what it could mean to them personally, to the team and to the organisation. If work needs to be allocated don’t forget to highlight who is responsible as well as the timelines. Often decisions get made but fall flat shortly thereafter as there is no ownership or accountability regarding what needs to be done.

Learn to foster dialogue

Facilitation skills, and your ability to foster open and honest dialogue, can benefit you and those around you in all aspects of your life. As a manager, leader, or consultant, facilitation skills (once mastered) can help you to motivate others to participate, obtain buy-in, draw on the creativity of the group, help people work together collaboratively, and create clear goals and objectives.

Author: Gareth Hallett