Colleagues sitting around a conference table with laptops smiling

Many managers may be suffering from decision fatigue these days. Given the pace of work, there seems to be no end to the number of situations to assess, courses of action to choose and people to rally as you move forward. Holding all the decision-making cards, however, can take a toll on you and your people.

Decision fatigue can cause individuals to feel drained, which impacts their mental health and their workplace performance as it can lead to procrastination or impulsiveness. Studies have also found that after making many choices, your judgment worsens throughout the course of the day.

Moreover, if employees feel like they don’t have control over their work, their motivation may decrease. In contrast, when individuals have a seat at the table and know that their voices are heard, they tend to be more engaged and willing to contribute. Being part of the deliberation process also helps staff develop critical thinking and leadership skills to support their ongoing development.

To get a respite from some of the fatigue you may be feeling and – even better – boost your staff’s engagement and growth, I invite you to consider how your team can share decision-making authority.

Limitations of Shared Decision-Making

Not every choice merits your whole group’s opinions. Make sure to evaluate the importance and the impact of the situation in question. If the stakes are low, it may not be worth a discussion. Instead, perhaps it’s something you could delegate or partner with one or two colleagues to solve.

It’s also important to ensure that the group has actual authority over the direction. We do not always get a say in company policies or practices. While it is still beneficial and valuable to listen to your staff’s feelings, it’s vital to clarify if employees can influence the outcome.

Finally, consider what perspectives you need. Based on the nature of a topic or situation, some individuals may not have the needed experience or expertise to provide relevant feedback. You may still want to include group members as a learning opportunity or because they bring a point of view that may be missing. Just make sure participants are clear on your vision for their role in the conversation.

Overcoming Perceived Challenges

Often, we hear that shared decision-making takes too long and may suffer from groupthink. In reality, trusting, cognitively diverse teams tend to solve problems faster and with greater efficacy. To see positive outcomes at a reasonable pace, spend time building psychological safety within your group and determine how you can get a range of perspectives.

Teams also may run into the challenge where the loudest voices are heard, while those who are quieter may be overlooked. You can address this issue by identifying group norms that support both internal and external processors.

For example, you may set the expectation that you will ask for each person’s opinions and insights. When time permits, you could allow for thoughts in the night to give individuals time to consider all sides before affirming a direction.

Another perceived challenge can come from the fact that as your people are just becoming engaged in the decision-making process, they may not be active contributors. If your team members are not typically asked for their insights, they may need time to build skills to support ideation, or to even feel confident sharing their thoughts.

To aid your staff, ask them what they need to contribute more easily. Once you understand their perspectives, partner with your team to align on a path forward.

Create the Framework for Shared Decision-Making

To enhance your deliberation process and outcomes, follow five steps.

1. Understand your group’s makeup.

As I shared earlier, diversity, and in particular cognitive diversity, is valuable for effective decision-making. Using assessments like Emergenetics®, you can identify your team’s innate Thinking and Behavioral preferences to understand the perspectives that are present, where you may naturally gravitate as a group and potential blind spots.

If your team is homogenous, identify how you will gain new points of view. For example, you could use the “empty chair” method that we often employ at Emergenetics. If an Attribute is underrepresented, we place a chair in the room to remind people to consider that viewpoint. In virtual meetings, you can use an extra device to login a participant with the name of the underrepresented Attribute. You might also reach out to colleagues across the company who have a preference in that Attribute and ask them to participate from time to time.

2. Set ground rules.

To engage in a productive conversation, it’s important that your staff members understand the norms and expectations for the process. Take time to define how you will engage with one another and identify a set of operating agreements that you will use.

Some considerations could include creating a protocol to hear each team member’s perspectives on the topic. Encouraging team members to embrace active listening and agreeing to share any known, pertinent data in advance of the meeting can also facilitate discussion. Finally, I recommend that you discuss how you will respectfully address conflict or dissent.

3. Describe the problem.

Words have an impact. Be mindful that the way you describe the topic can affect the perceptions of your staff and even the solutions they may come up with. Be objective and clear about what is known about the opportunity and try to avoid imposing your own opinion about ways to pursue it.

As you engage with your team, frame the challenge clearly and ask open-ended questions. In doing so, you can promote healthy dialogue rather than unintentionally lead your people down a particular path. I also encourage you to not share your ideas first as that may limit input from the group.

4. Share ideas and engage in questioning.

Give each staff member time to express their thoughts before you begin to discuss and analyze them. Hearing different perspectives and concepts can inspire new insights, so having this initial brainstorming space is useful. Those in the third-third of Expressiveness may benefit from having a place to jot notes down, so they can share their reactions to what they’ve heard from others.

Once ideas are on the table, you can begin to evaluate the concepts and introduce further considerations to narrow your options. I encourage those who have an Emergenetics Profile to use that as a template in the evaluation process. Consider what perspective each of the Attributes might have regarding the problem and solutions to make sure you are taking a holistic approach and not overlooking important points of view.

5. Decide your approach and evaluation timeline.

As you home in on a direction, there may be employees who have concerns about the group’s decision. As a team, take time to listen to their insights and discuss potential risks. Some concerns may be small and simply need to be voiced. Others may have a high impact and discussing how you will mitigate them up front will save time and challenges as you work on implementation.

It can also be useful to agree to a timeline to evaluate your solution before making adjustments. In addition, consider what criteria would encourage you to make changes. By coming to consensus, your team can put its best foot forward.

Decision-making does not have to be a source of fatigue for managers. Instead, it can be an effective method to help employees operate with a solution mindset. By committing to the process and mindfully communicating with your team, you can empower your staff to shape the direction of your work.

Discover how Emergenetics can help your organization make better decisions. Learn more about the power of cognitive diversity or fill out the form below to speak with one of our team members today!

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