Behaviors that Help/Hinder Good Decision Making


“Behavior is a mirror in which every one displays his own image”
–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Have you ever encountered the situation where one member of the team regularly dominates a discussion?  I have.  You may note that this member has good insights yet is lacking in interpersonal skills.  You may have also seen some minor friction between this person and other members of the team.  The challenge to a leader is to take action to address the undesired behaviors and reap the benefits offered by the member – yet what sort of action?

I pondered over this recently while reflecting on this very situation occurring with the team right now.  While rummaging through materials on leadership, I re-encountered a list from one of my workshops while I was in the NASA leadership development program.  The list entitled Effective Decision-Making Behaviors contained a column of behaviors that help, next to a contrasting column of behaviors that hinder.  Sure enough, several of the behaviors that hinder were on display yesterday.

OK, so much for book learning.  What action should I take?  How shall I bring awareness to these effective decision-making behaviors?

I chose an approach based upon one of my values, that of learning.  I made a copy of the list and handed it out at the start of the team tagup this morning.  I said this to the team: “All, we’re about to embark on a series of decision-making events over the next two weeks to finalize our strategy.  I’d like to share with you a list of behaviors that help decision making and contrasting behaviors that hinder.  For me as a leader, I deeply value learning, yet to borrow a phrase  from the late Richard Feynman, for me the learning process is not complete until I share what I learned with others.”  From there, the team read through the list, and the person who yesterday exhibited the behaviors that hinder pointed at one of them and spoke up: “Yes, that one is me, and so is that one, and so is that one!”  We all laughed together and shared our perspectives on the list.  From there, we worked together and made tremendous progress towards choosing our procurement strategy, with very few incidences of behaviors that hindered good decision making.  I’d call it a very successful day, one in which I felt an extremely good case of exhaustion at the end but a very warm satisfaction at what we accomplished.

The leadership process, I am discovering, is “organic” – by that, it’s not a simple application by rote the things that I’ve read.  It’s sometime trial and error, and it’s not a one-time-application-and-everything-will-be-rosy-from-here process.  I’m sure we’ll experience lapses and will need reinforcement of the behaviors that help and respectful identification of behaviors that hinder.  This will be my challenge in the coming days and weeks as we move closer to agreeing upon our strategy and seeking approval of it from the Agency.  It’s gonna be a fun ride!

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Behaviors That Help Behaviors That Hinder
Listening to others’ ideas politely, even when you don’t agree. Interrupting people in mid-sentence.
Paraphrasing the main points made by another person before you respond, especially if you’re about to contradict the person’s ideas. Not acknowledging the ideas that others have put on the table.
Praising others’ ideas. Criticizing others’ ideas, as opposed to giving them useful feedback.
Building on others’ ideas. Pushing your own ideas while ignoring others’ inputs.
Asking others to critique your ideas, and accepting the feedback. Getting defensive when your ideas are assessed.
Being open to accepting alternative courses of action. Sticking only to your ideas and blocking suggestions for alternatives.
Dealing with facts. Basing arguments on feelings not substantiated by evidence.
Staying calm and friendly towards colleagues. Getting overly emotional; showing hostility in the face of any disagreement.
Behaviors that Help/Hinder Good Decision Making