There is a saying in the Netherlands that something is really wrong when we don’t complain. Complaining is okay, and it shows you are at least committed. However, isn’t it weird that team members complain about a decision they just made as a team?
As a leader, you can be part of a management team. You empower teams as much as possible, but still, as a management team, you need to make certain decisions. To make decisions, you will have conflicts. There is nothing wrong with that, and conflicts can be very valuable. During the meeting, you exchange arguments, share facts and experiences, and listen to each other. You want to make the best decision possible. In the end, a decision will be made. Did you reach a consensus, and everyone totally agrees? Or does everyone say they agree, but still, some people disagree? Or did one person, in the end, make the decision based on his power or authority?
I have seen many times that teams make a decision, and at the coffee machine, I hear team members sharing their opinion about the decision. “It is a stupid decision.” “We should have never made this decision.” “Why didn’t they listen to me, as I know what is the right decision.” As said before, something is wrong when people don’t complain, but I believe this kind of complaining is NOT done.
The reliability of a team also depends on the information a team shares.
When teams make a decision, all team members should share the same message to the outside world. A team that speaks with more than one voice is reliable. Who and what should you believe in that case?
How to resolve this problem?
#1 Provide feedback immediately
Suppose you hear team members sharing their opinion about a decision and how wrong this decision is. You need to provide feedback immediately to this person. You need to clearly explain this is making the team unreliable for the stakeholders. If you don’t provide feedback, it will only worsen and become part of the culture.
#2 Improve your decision-making process
How does the team make decisions? The person with the loudest voice decides in the end. Does everyone get an opportunity to share their opinion? Take a look at the Sociocracy 3.0 Pattern Consent Decision Making. Consent Decision Making is a (facilitated) group process for decision-making. In this process, people are invited to share objections and share concerns. Where objections need to be resolved before a decision is made and concerns are addressed in the future.
#3 Create clarity on who is allowed to make certain decisions
When a team has no team lead or manager, it is not always clear who is allowed to make decisions. Sometimes you want the expect a team to make the decision. In some cases, you want the majority to agree on the decision (but remember Brexit). In some cases, you want everyone to agree on the decision. The team decision matrix of Management 3.0 can help to create clarity.
#4 Make clear agreements
It sounds simple, but just talk about it. What are the work agreements? As a team, it is good to talk about what you expect from each other. One agreement can be that when a decision is made, all team members agree to accept the decision. Accepting the decision also implies that you share one message with stakeholders. Therefore, no complaining at the coffee machine that it is a wrong decision.
#5 Make sure people feel safe
Trust is always important in a team, but in this case, maybe even more. If team members don’t feel safe, they will never speak out when they have an objection or concern about a decision. Safety is essential; otherwise, implementing the tips above doesn’t make sense.
#6 Ask why
Often something can be very simple; in this case, it is also simple. Just ask the person why he shared his different opinion. What is behind this? You could make this part of giving feedback, but it is important to ask the question. What made you share a different opinion with stakeholders? You can learn from this, and it will also help you to decide which of the other tips above can improve the team.
Six tips that can help you make sure a team speaks with one voice and makes decisions that all team members support. To have a team making decisions that team members don’t undermine when they leave the room. As said, this is important to me, and I will never accept that team members will undermine any decision made by a team. It is okay to disagree, but you must share this disagreement with the team, not the outside world.