Connecting Listening and Decision-Making

Better listening improves decision making

Part of our Decision Clarity work addresses the imperative of understanding and illuminating our client’s cultural attitudes about decision-making.

All people and all organizations have unique biases on decision-making and they bring these perspectives to the organizations we work with.

Attitude adjustment time?

Through hundreds of interviews and dozens of years of interaction with leadership in many organizations, we’ve been exposed to a wide range of attitudes that senior executives hold. Some of the typical attitudes include:

  •  “I’m the only one who can make that decision. It’s my decision to make. I’ve earned it and its mine.”

  • “If we involve more people that will slow down the process.”

  • “ No one else can be trusted with that decision.”

  • And the always popular,

    “I have to control everything or we will fail.”

Some of these attitudes are well known while others are unspoken and percolate beneath the surface. All of the above perspectives, and so many more, are detrimental to the effective operation of organizations. They’re time, money and human capital wasters. If the people in charge would listen to their staff they would understand that individuals on their teams could actually play a far more active and effective role in decision-making.

Ok boss, listen up.

I read a great article in the March 2012 edition of the McKinsey Quarterly. The article, “The Executives Guide to Better Listening by Bernard T. Ferrari is worth reading.

In his essay Ferrari argues that, “Listening is the front end of decision-making. Good listening… can often mean the difference between success and failure.” So true! How can people make decisions unless they listen to their customers/clients and their teams? Yet they do and often with less than optimal results.

Advocates of change.

In our Decision Clarity work we spend time training people how to advocate for decision-making responsibility. These advocating skills will not be successfully used if the leaders in our client organizations are unwilling to change their decision-making attitudes and are unwilling to listen.

Later in the article, Ferrari reflects on the autobiography of one of the baseball’s great managers, Earl Weaver of the Baltimore Orioles. Weaver’s book, “Its What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts”, causes the author to reflect, “to get what we need from our conversations, we must be prepared to challenge our long-held and cherished assumptions.” This is true both about baseball and decision-making.

The people in our organizations can add their insights and passion to their work. They can operate at even higher levels. We just have to create organizational structures and cultural norms that let this happen. That’s what we do with Decision Clarity.

So where are you? Is your organization reaching its potential? Or are you impeding growth by holding the reigns a bit too tight? Could you be a better listener? Share a comment and how well you think you’re listening.

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