Let’s do a thought experiment: Does democracy work in brain surgery? If you are a brain surgeon, would you allow anyone in your team to make key decisions when you’re operating on a patient? Probably not. If you want to be effective, you must channel your inner dictator the moment you touch the scalpel.
However, once you exit the operating room, this decision making style will probably no longer serve you.
When you’re leading a high-performance team and you face a decision, ask yourself in which decision tier you’re operating.
- Tier 1: You act like an enlightened dictator. You decide.
- Tier 2: You consult others individually, then you decide.
- Tier 3: You consult others as a group, then you decide.
- Tier 4: You let the group decide, based on majority.
- Tier 5: You let the group decide, based on consensus.
- Tier 6: You delegate the decision to someone else.
Tiers 1-3 are the right approach to decision making, if the burden of a wrong decision falls on your shoulders. When I worked in operations, the final decision to implement any change in the facility was always done by the site manager. He or she would be held responsible if something went wrong.
Tiers 4-6 are the right approach to decision making, if the impact of a wrong decision is small. Take for example, the organization of your next team event: You may decide beforehand on the parameters, such as budget, timeframe, etc. Then leave all other decisions to the organizing team.
Decision making is situational. Make a clear distinction between principles and taste to recognize which tier is most effective. Always be firm and dictatorial about principles, and be flexible and democratic about taste.
High-performance is about taking out everything which prevents your team from being at their best. What are typical areas were you have been engaging your team as a democracy, but you should unleash your inner autocrat instead?