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Meiss Education Institute

Team Results: Decision-Making and Effective Meetings
By Rich Meiss

Creating High Performing Teams Series: VI

High performing teams follow the first four R’s of effective teams (team Reasons, team Relationships, team Responsibilities, and team Roles and Goals).  But ultimately every team effort must lead to satisfying RESULTS.   When the end goal is lost, team efforts tend to falter.

Two additional elements are needed to keep the team producing results: appropriate team decision-making, and effective team meetings. There are potentially seven different ways for teams to reach decisions.  High performing teams will want to decide in advance which of these seven they will use.

  1. Consensus Building is the art of getting people to go along with an approach, idea, or decision that they may not agree with initially.  The gist of the concept is not full group agreement, but a mutual understanding of the need to try new approaches or even stick to an existing method for a period of time.  The spirit of the approach suggests experimentation, flexibility, respect for others’ ideas and openness to their ideas.  The ultimate concept is that many ideas or approaches will be tried.  No one will get their way all the time.  Understand that building consensus takes time and effort.  It will never lead to the quickest decision.

  2. Majority Rule or Democratic Voting is the notion that the larger number of team members in favor of an idea will get their way.  Be careful with this approach.  The downside can be disastrous to the minority.

  3. Minority Rule or The Task Force Approach works best when a representative group of team members are carefully picked for their fairness and overall peer support.  Leaving the decision in their hands suggests that the team leader will not override the decision or recommendation.  If the team leader still wants to control the decision, then this is the wrong approach.

  4. Compromising or Averaging is an effective approach when you want to reach the middle of the group’s opinion.  Unfortunately, compromising seldom satisfies anyone for long.  So the decision will probably have to be revisited.  If that is okay, then this approach can be useful as decisions can be arrived at quickly.

  5. Relying on the Outside Expert can sometimes work, but is also fraught with danger.  Outside experts, regardless of their experience or knowledge, don’t have to live with their recommendations as the team does.  Take their advice, weigh it carefully, and then make a team decision.

  6. Authority Rule without Discussion is a great approach if your building is burning down (or there is some other similar impending event).  With rare exception, this approach seems to create more long-term damage that benefits.  The greatest downside to this approach is the lack of building team member’s leadership qualities and self-confidence.

  7.   Authority Rule with Discussion is an important tool for the team leader wanting to include people in the decisions.  This approach should be carefully spelled out BEFORE the leader begins information gathering.  If the ground rules are not laid out in advance, team members often are led to believe that their advice will be embraced.  Then, if they do not see their ideas being put into action, them may feel betrayed.  So set up this method in advance by saying something like:  “I will make the final decision here, but I want all of your best ideas before doing so.”

Any and all of these seven choices may be judiciously used in team settings, although consensus building and authority rule with discussion are the two most commonly used.

Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles to team success is the ineffectiveness of team meetings.  Almost more than anything else, unproductive meetings are a major complaint of unsatisfied team members.  A meeting is a gathering of a group of three or more people for a defined purpose.  Team meetings are usually convened for one or more of these purposes:

            To facilitate team communication

            To reach a group decision

            To reconcile a conflict or solve a problem

            To provide information

            To set goals and direction

            To explore new ways of doing things

There are two main problems with team meetings today:

1)     Meetings are BORING!

2)    Meetings lack context.

Meetings are boring for several prominent reasons.  First, they don’t start and end well.  A good meeting will start on time, and will provide participants with a “WIIFM” statement (“What’s In It – For Me?).  Everyone will gain clarity early on as to the purpose and agenda for the meeting, and have a chance to refine the agenda.  And at the end, there will be some closure to the meeting.  A review of decisions will be made, with a definite who/what/by when assignment (team members will know who is responsible for what, by when).  

Another reason team meetings are boring is that there is little opportunity for idealogical conflict.  Very often the team leader gets the group together simply to “rubber stamp” his or her ideas.  He or she is not really looking for the best ideas of group members.  Team members quickly catch on to a leader who is only looking for a “yes, sir/yes, ma’am” approach, and often shut down in the meeting.  They become bored with the process because they believe that they have no “skin in the game”.  Effective team leaders recognize the importance of fostering good idealogical conflict – a willingness to allow good debate of ideas among the team.  (For more on this concept, see the article in this series titled Team Responsibilities:  Managing Conflict and Poor Performance.)

Another key reason team meetings are so ineffective is that they serve too many purposes.  Meetings become a mixed “stew” of ideas – short term tactical ideas, longer term strategic ideas, decision making, and more.  Effective leaders recognize that there are different types of meetings designed to accomplish different purposes.  The best model for these types of meetings that we’ve found is that put forth by Patrick Lencioni in his great book, Death by Meetings.  By combining the 5R’s of high performing teams along with effective decision making and team meetings, teams will see the results that they are looking to achieve!


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