Learn the reasons why decisions aren't made (fear or complacency), and how clarity for authority, criteria, and process will create breakthroughs.
- The CEO calls an all-hands meeting to discuss the quarterly results. It's two-thirds rah rah and one-third here's what we got to do better in the future. Better time management, more production, and tighter efficiencies. At the end of the meeting, the CEO asks, "Are there any questions?" She pauses for a few seconds, gets polite nods from the audience, but no questions or comments. She smiles and thanks everyone. As she's walking back to her office, she says to one of her executives, "I thought that went well, what do you think?" The executive smiles, nods, hesitates for a second and says, "Sure, yep, I think they're on board." First, think is a pretty big assumption.
The fact of the matter is neither of them know how it went. No one spoke up, no one asked a question, made a comment, offered a suggestion, or challenged the CEO. But why? It's one of two things. Fear or complacency. The people either fear they'd be penalized for speaking up, or ridiculed. Or even worse, they simply don't care. Maybe they spoke up before and were shot down. Or offered ideas in the past that simply went into a black hole.
Silence is a danger sign. If people aren't speaking up, then they're not communicating. If they're not communicating, then they're probably not making decisions, either. As senior leaders of the organization, it's our job to create an environment where people feel safe to express their views and they're appropriately empowered to make decisions. If I were to ask the people in your organization the following three questions, how do you think they'd respond? Regarding decision making, is it clear who has the authority to make various decisions? Is the decision making process spelled out? That is, is there a process by which to make certain decisions? Is there criteria for making decisions? That is, do higher impact decisions have more rigor with regard to urgency and importance? If communication could be better, consider there may be ambiguity when it comes to your organization's decision making authority, criteria, and process.
Remember, silence can mean all sorts of things, and unspoken, they're all assumptions. You need to be able to hear thought processes and how people feel. It's up to you to ensure people are on the same page, because that's a prerequisite for your leaders making good and informed decisions on your behalf. Are you ready to give up a little control?