Managing Employee Relationships: Decide and Communicate Decision

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

On non-controversial matters, when the leader really could go with whatever the stakeholders identify with the most “pros”, I imagine no barriers exits.  However, when after input it becomes clear that stakeholders are divided on what the leader now believes is the “best” option, that’s when the going gets tough.  In moments like this is when the need to be liked gets in the way.  This need may cause the leader to just go along with the “majority” rather than making the hard decision.  Or, the leader may delay making the decision, continue to analyze the situation or seek additional input that supports her position so she “feels better” about making the decision.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Making decisions to produce desired results is part of the leadership gig.  Period.  In a perfect world, when the stars align and every person giving you input is in agreement, making decisions is a piece of cake.  In reality, a leader’s (or leadership team’s) job is to ask for input, genuinely listen to stakeholders and then make the final decision.  Leadership is taking the heat for the ultimate decision.

How can you do it? 

  1. Share the final pro/con list with the original group of key stakeholders (or in many situations at SOMC, a leadership team).  Prior to your next leadership team meeting, send all participants the final list of pros and cons generated by all stakeholders.  Ask each participant to reflect and come prepared to give input into the final decision.
  2. Determine the final decision by using structured discussion with decision criteria to come to consensus, or the technique of ‘multiple voting’ if more narrowing is needed. The most important step now is to look at the pro/con results from all stakeholders and apply a criterion to make the final decision.  For example, you asked for all possible ways to do a new process and the pros/cons for each.  Now you as the leader/leadership team has to view this list and make the final decision based on which idea will save the most cost (or best for the patient, have the safest outcome, etc.).  Applying the most pertinent Strategic Values as the decision criteria will help guide you as a leader/leadership team on making the best final decision.
  3. Communicate the final decision.  Develop a communication plan for the final decision, which should answer the What (what is the problem and decision), Why (why is it a problem and why this particular decision was made/Strategic Value criteria), Who (who will be affected by the decision), When (when will the decision go into effect), and How (how will the decision be implemented).  The most effective way of communicating this is through a “live” roll-out and a printed FAQ (frequently asked questions) document.

Are there other techniques you have successfully used to communicate your final decision?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Identify Pros and Cons

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

This is going to start sounding repetitive, but time is a leader’s biggest barrier here. After all of our previous steps, you might be getting fatigued with this whole “input thing”. Ha!  Well…hang in there.  It will be worth it for key decisions that you need to make.  Also, our arrogance as leaders might convince us that we know what the pros and cons are better than our stakeholders.  Well…we do…from OUR perspective.  But the perspective we need to tap to make the most informed decision is that of the affected stakeholders.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Great is the temptation to take the list of brainstormed ideas and just pick the final solution from that list.  But remember, we are trying to engage people and to communicate through our actions that their “ideas and suggestions are seriously considered”.  So…enlist their help in seriously considering each idea.  Asking your stakeholders to generate the pros and cons of each idea accomplishes three things: (1) identifies blind spots we have as leader regarding potential solutions; (2) engages stakeholders through the action of thoroughly vetting each idea; (3) allows the strongest suggestions to emerge for all stakeholders to see through displaying all suggested pros/cons.

How can you do it? 

  1. Invite all stakeholders to suggest pros and cons for each suggestion from brainstorming.  There are a few ways that you can do this.  You can send the list of suggestions to each stakeholder electronically and ask them to respond with their pros and cons.  You could send or post the suggestions for a period of time, asking each stakeholder to think of pros and cons and then hold a meeting where you capture their thoughts visually (flip chart/screen).  Or you could post the ideas in an area for a period of time an ask your stakeholders to write pros and cons next to the idea (sticky notes work great for this) as they think of them and then you would summarize.
  2. Get these pros and cons “on the record”.  The method I prefer above is the electronic review and submission because it keeps all of the pros/cons transparent and their owners accountable.  This is important for a few reasons: (1) it allows the leader to clarify a pro/con if not understood; (2) it generally keeps people focused on the organizational issue rather than self-interest; and (3) the author is accountable to their responses (and non-response).
  3. Provide the summarized list back to each stakeholder.  Even when I have employed the electronic method, what I provide back is a full summary of each suggestion and pros/cons.  I typically put a number in parentheses to indicate how many stakeholders listed that similar idea.  This will be helpful for our next step of selecting the decision because it visually begins the process of consensus.

What method of generating pros and cons has been most successful for you?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Ask for All Options

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The biggest barriers to asking for options before making a decision is of course time.  There are critical decisions that need made quickly and may not allow for a full vetting.  But sometimes the “speed crisis” is self-generated because we want to move on and check the item off of our list.  Or we have procrastinated because it is a tough decision to the point that there is no time for this step.  As the leader I may think “I know best” and that going through this process is just a fig leaf.  Or I may assume that my stakeholders don’t care about a decision based on previous lack of input.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

No matter what the problem is or decision needing made…there are ALWAYS options.  There may be no really good options, but options there are.  The more you involve your stakeholders in the generation of options, the clearer it is that management has not already decided a direction.  This promotes potential buy-in if an option suggested by stakeholders is selected for the decision.  As a leader the fact you are taking the time to involve your stakeholders in options for a decision that affects them, will shape a positive perception on two key driver engagement questions on our Employee Engagement Survey – “My ideas and suggestions are seriously considered” and “I am involved in decisions that affect my work.”

How can you do it? 

  1. Identify the OBVIOUS options.  To get the flow going in your stakeholder group, start by identifying the most obvious options.  One such obvious option is to “do nothing.”  It is important that your stakeholders know that this is a serious option that sometimes is the best when all options are considered.
  2. Ask key stakeholders to suggestion as many additional options as possible.  The technique that is helpful with this step is Brainstorming (this link lists the steps and variations of this technique for your consideration).  The goal of this step is VOLUME.  Your goal is to get as many people participating and have the most extensive list of options as possible.
  3. Bring in an outside facilitator if necessary.  If your stakeholders have a pattern of not participating when you ask for suggestions and you have tried some of the techniques in the link above with little improvement, it may be time to ask an outside facilitator to assist.  Sometimes it may be a leadership style or trust issue that gets in the way with active participation.  Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  4. Share the full list of options with a larger group of stakeholders for further input.  Send your preliminary list out to a larger audience and ask them to add to the options.  This will give you the most complete list of options to consider before prioritization and selection.

Are there additional ways you have successfully used to gather options from stakeholders?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Manage Expectations of Input

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The biggest barrier to managing the expectations of those giving input is that leaders often skip over this step.  The leader knows why they are asking for input and how they will use that input…so there is really no need to clarify.  Likewise, each stakeholder has their own opinion of why they are being asked for input and how the input will be used.  The gap between the leader and stakeholder’s expectations, if not clarified, can create problems throughout the rest of the input process and implementation of the final decision.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Before you ask stakeholders to brainstorm options, it is imperative to describe up front how the input will be used to make a decision.  In organizations there are “Opiners” and “Deciders”.  It is important for leaders to get the input and opinions of the individuals affected by a process change or who do the work every day (Opiners).  However, the leader is accountable for the decision made and also responsible for taking the input and weighing it against factors that their stakeholders might not be aware of such as financial issues or conflicting strategic priorities (Deciders).  While great places to work regularly solicit and value stakeholder input, we are not democracies governed by majority vote.  Leaders sometimes have to make unpopular decisions that not all stakeholders support.

How can you do it? 

  1. Clarify, up front, the goal of getting stakeholder input.  This seems like a redundant, simple step, but think back to almost any relationship conflict you have ever had.  Most likely the root of the conflict was a result of a misunderstanding, miscommunication or misaligned goals.  Be very specific that you are asking for their input about X because of ABC reasons.
  2. Describe how their input will be used to make a decision.  Be ready to explain the answers to the following: Are you going act on their recommendations?  Or are you just looking for input and then making the decision yourself?  I like to use the phrase “your input about X is very important to me so that I can make the BEST decision.”  This insures that stakeholders are clear that you as the leader will be making the final decision.
  3. Explain how the decision that will ultimately be made from their input connects to the mission/strategic direction.  Never miss the opportunity to connect to the “why” that a decision from their input will have on the bigger picture in your organization.   This may help your stakeholders understand the impact of the decision that you will make (and have the best chance to engage their support for decisions that may not be in all stakeholders’ favor).

What other strategies have you used to clarify stakeholder expectations of their input?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Determine Who Needs to Give Input

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

When decisions have to be made fast, involving other stakeholders can seem like a waste of precious time.  The right stakeholders’ availability may be delayed.  Identifying the right stakeholders (right departments, job roles, expertise) might not be intuitive and take longer than expected.  Another barrier can be finding the stakeholders with enough interest and passion to not only make the best decision but also be helpful in the implementation.  If finding the “right” stakeholders, fast, seems too difficult, a leader will certainly be tempted to just make the decision alone.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

From the book Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of American Leadership, the author reflected that Teddy Roosevelt “learned that an adaptive leader can only lead others by listening, truly listening, to understand what the followers believed at that moment in time. It cannot be done by charging ahead alone, simply espousing virtues. Once a leader knew what his followers believed—as well as their prejudices—he could empathize with them. Only then could he lead them.” In order for a leader to know a process, identify possible options for decisions/improvements, to make the best decision and to have buy-in for implementation, a leader needs to get the input of the people most closely involved.

How can you do it? 

  1. Choose a content expert and/or process owner.  If the decision leader is not you, then you need to engage the leader of the process and/or the subject matter expert in the area in the which the decision is needing made.  Understanding current reality of a process and ideas for improvement from the perspective of the person currently leading the process will be very helpful input.  Implementation of a change has little chance of being successful without the process owners input.
  2. Identify the appropriate stakeholders.  Working with the process owner answer the following: Who will be affected by this decision?  Who has expertise about this decision?  Who will be integral in implementing the final decision?  Who is passionate about this decision?  Who will make the final decision?  This will form the basis for a starting stakeholder list.
  3. Create a task force.  From the list of stakeholders, identify 5-10 (10 max) key individuals representing multiple perspectives that can serve as the group to select final decision options.  We will talk more about the function of this task force over the next few weeks.

What barriers have you faced when selecting stakeholders to help you with a decision?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Identify Which Decisions Need Input

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

Leaders have to make numerous decisions every day and let’s face it…leaders LOVE to check things off of their “to-do list”.  Taking the time to think about which decisions should have input from others is messy and would force the leader to pause before marking “Check.”  As a leader, I might not be in touch or miss the mark with what decisions my team would like their input heard. Or out of hubris, I may think that I know what’s best for my department and getting input is just as waste of my time.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

For employees to be committed to their organization and their work, they need to feel that their input is seriously considered, or there is a risk that employees will eventually stop offering suggestions and individual/departmental performance to suffer.  All leaders have limits on time and the extent to which they are able to use input from employees.  Outstanding leaders, however, are clear about what decisions need made and find a way to help their employees feel that their ideas are being seriously considered for decisions that affect their work.

How can you do it?

  1. Create a list of decisions that need made in your department Spend some time with your management team on generating a list of decisions that need made on a regular basis in the operation of your department.  Add to that list any upcoming decisions that you anticipate needing to make in order to improve results in your department. Place an asterisk next to the decisions that impact the work/schedule/assignments of your employees.
  2. Label them based on amount of input needed to make the best decisionAs a leadership team, label each decision with the following criteria (A) No input from team members is appropriate; (B) Some input or recommendations are desired so leader can make the best decision; (C) Appropriate for the team to make the decision.  If the decision has an asterisk next to it, challenge your team to label it either (B) or (C).
  3. Be willing to move decisions into different categories based upon employee input.  Share the list of common and anticipated decisions and your labelling system with your employees.  Facilitate discussion about each decision and get your team members’ input on whether or not you have labelled the decision appropriately.  Be willing to change the labelling based on input.

What are some examples of decisions you have to make that (1) need no input from team members and (2) need input from the team prior to making decision?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Improving Engagement Through Input

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

In leadership we make decisions every day that can affect our individual work, our departmental processes and our organization’s results. Making the effort to gather input from those we serve before making these decisions may take too much time for the urgency of the problem.  We may avoid seeking input out of pride – either believing we don’t need others’ input or that making decisions is “my job.”  We also may not ask for employee input for fear of what we might hear.  We might be criticized, our employees may be negative about a potential decision or worse yet, misunderstand that giving input is not the same as making the decision.  We also might make an assumption that our employees just don’t care or will not have valuable input anyway.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Through over 20 years of employee engagement surveys, Southern Ohio Medical Center has determined that the perception employees have that “their ideas and suggestions are seriously considered” and they are “involved in decisions that affect their work” are two key drivers for engagement in our culture.  Departments that have high engagement results, perform well on these two items.  Departments that do not perform well on these items…do not.  In order for us to sustain a culture where employees want to engage in our mission, we need to allow them to engage through meaningful input.  Over the next several weeks of this blog series, we will discuss in detail how you can implement the following input process framework as a tool in your engagement tool kit.

How can you do it? 

  1. Determine what needs decided and who owns the decision.  Before you engage others for their input, be clear about the decision needing made.  Make sure you have the subject matter experts and process owner involved.
  2. Identify all of the possible solutions and select the best decision option.  Make sure you have all of the key stakeholders involved and gather their input about all possible solutions and what they would identify as the “best” option.  Ask for input on how best to communicate to the affected stakeholders and their thoughts on implementation.
  3. Make, communicate and implement the decision.  Make the best decision you can with the input from your stakeholders.  Communicate the decision and outline a clear plan for implementation.

What example can you share that demonstrates the power of input (or lack thereof) on employee engagement?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Perceptions: Contain Your Defensiveness

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

When leaders are attacked, it is normal to become defensive. Leaders believe they are well-intentioned, bright people who are trying to do the right thing. When others accuse them of being short-sighted, muddle-headed and worse, no reasonable person should expect those leaders to remain detached, calm and gratefully receptive to such stinging attacks.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

But that is what people expect their leaders to do. Whether you realized it or not, that is exactly what you signed up for when you accepted a leadership position. People don’t care how you feel. They care how they feel. They expect you to ignore your feelings and attend to theirs. The best leaders recognize this and throttle their natural defensiveness in their efforts to manage perceptions more effectively.

How can you do it?

Face the reality that this is your job. If you keep on trying to prop up your self-esteem by the longed-for admiration of those you are leading, you are headed for early burnout.

Recognize your defensiveness. These reactions are strong and commanding. When you come under fire for the first year or so, you will have already returned fire before you realize you are feeling defensive.

Practice. Ask your colleagues to help you prepare. Ask them to give you their best shots. As a leader, you’ve got to learn to absorb some bruising hits and keep on leading.

How have you managed perceptions effectively by controlling your own defensiveness?

 

Managing Perceptions: Welcome Conflicting Perceptions

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Leaders are impatient by nature. Like everyone else in the world, they want what they want when they want it. And what they want is for others to think the way they want them to think and to do what they want them to do.  This posture does not incline leaders to see value in having people disagree. Leaders who just want to get on with it do not welcome the delays that conflict produces.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

But conflict can be a very good thing. Those who disagree with you are more likely to see the holes in your case. They may force you to consider consequences you never considered, possible barriers you haven’t seen. If you cannot overcome their negative perceptions with convincing rebuttals, how can you expect to persuade the quiet resisters to follow you?

How can you do it?

Anticipate conflicting perceptions. Whatever perception you attempt to manage, you can bet that others will work hard to out-manage you. If you deal with conflicting perceptions up front, you will minimize the damage they will cause later if you leave such issues unaddressed.

Accept others’ feelings. If you try to manage others’ perceptions before you acknowledge the legitimacy of their feelings, this rookie move will result in your immediate checkmate.

Thank dissenters for their courage. It is not easy to speak forthrightly to power. Leaders cannot please everyone. People understand this. But they want to have their say and they want to be heard, understood and taken seriously. That is not too much to ask, is it?

How have you managed perceptions effectively by inviting conflicting perceptions?

Managing Perceptions: Explain Your Own Perceptions

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Like everyone else, leaders naturally assume their perceptions are reality. Others have perceptions. Leaders think they see things the way they really are. This is nonsense of course, but the illusion of power blinds leaders to the obvious.  Such arrogance inclines leaders to mismanage perceptions from the start.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If you cannot successfully manage your own perceptions, you cannot manage others’. When you begin the discussion about perceptions by admitting that your perceptions are just perceptions too, you create an environment of acceptance and openness. Your perceptions are no more valid or important than theirs. In this context, everyone can move on to examining the reasons for everyone’s perceptions. Anytime you can move the discussion from opinions to the underlying reasons for those opinions, you are well on your way to successfully managing opinions.

How can you do it?

Clarify their perceptions first. When you raise the issue and ask for their perceptions about it, it is likely that at least some of them will share your perceptions. If you lead with what you think, you will trigger an instinctive defensiveness you might have avoided altogether.

Wait until you are asked. If you wait until others ask what you think, they will be much more inclined to listen nonjudgmentally.

Admit that your perceptions are just perceptions at this point.  Make it clear that you are open to changing your perceptions based on a compelling case for a different point of view. This is so reasonable a stance that no one can disagree with it publicly without appearing injudicious. Anytime you can take the reasonable high ground that is the leadership sweet spot.

How have you managed perceptions by admitting your own?