Group dynamics in meetings and decisions are influenced by the social pressures of the group. You’ve heard the cynical old expression that the best decision of a committee is worse than the best decision of any one individual in the meeting.
Here are some signs that you may have a problem.
• Your business project or goal is deteriorating. You have missed deadlines, costs are rising, and there is a lack of participation, or even defection of members.
• Blaming and excuse making. You hear, “It’s not my fault… I’m dependent on someone else, and they didn’t do their job.”
• Private discussions. Individuals looking for support for their unheard position while tacitly agreeing with the group decision.
• Ad hominem attacks. Attacking the person rather than challenging the assumption, the stated fact, or reason . “He can’t possibly deliver on time because… he’s too tall, never here, not old enough etc.”
• Failure to celebrate successes, and being lavish with praise. Though marketing and sales people aren’t kid soccer players that get trophies for fifth place, we all like to hear we’ve done a good job.
The first key step in avoiding the Road to Abilene is to prepare for the meeting, discussion or decision.
• Invite the right people. People who have knowledge and expertise as opposed to just influence.
• Make sure that data and information are available prior to the meeting. Many meetings spin off because there is no data. As a result, the person with the strongest opinion or power often dominates.
• Make sure that everyone knows the objective of the meeting and the results expected.
• Have a process for evaluating options and impacts.
• Allow enough time for making the decision.
The second step is to understand the difference between real agreement and mismanaged agreement. Both have the same visible end result and may be hard to distinguish. Understanding the signs and circumstances of false agreement can help tip you off.
• Is the “boss” or one person of power dominating the meeting?
• Do people feel free to really express their opinions?
• Are they allowed to express their ideas?
• What is their body language?
• Is the discussion respectful?
• Is the discussion ever allowed to boil over?
• Are the participants comfortable with disagreement?
• Is the leader comfortable with disagreement?
• How comfortable are the participants and the leader with risk?
• Does the group understand how the final decision will be made? By consensus or by the leader?
It is helpful to establish a set of guidelines for discussion that allows everyone to gate keep when others are being ignored or disengaged.
My belief is that 80% of misalignment in meetings and decisions is by two factors; 1) individuals feeling like they didn’t get heard, and 2) the fear individuals have of making a mistake or sounding stupid. It takes some guts to challenge the social power of a group. Individuals also often mimic the quietness of a leader mistakenly believing that speaking last, or not talking, is a sign of power.
It also takes some guts for a leader to expose themselves by checking and probing individual positions and gate keeping. Patience is a virtue here. It may seem like the process is taking longer than it needs to, but consider the costs of mismanaged agreement; lack of buy-in, low morale, low productivity and even counter support and sabotage.
Another step is to ask if all possibilities have been investigated and whether the group is confident with the data and information. Each individual’s perspective and knowledge is unique and they each have something to contribute.
Just because you’re on the road to Abilene doesn’t mean you can’t turn around. Unless you need to go on to get your tattoo.
Do Great Things!
Prairie Sky Group
Making Sales Cry with Qualified Leads
651-357-0110 (Cell 24×7)