Decisions, decisions, decisions: How to get clearer on the decision-making process
By Gavin Grift
When it comes to making decisions, one of the worst things that learning leaders can do is to lack purpose and clarity.
If decisions are made on the hop, without a clear purpose or appropriate consultation, staff can easily be left feeling ignored or resentful, and trust and goodwill is eroded.
Colleagues tell me that one of their biggest frustrations is feeling like they’re part of a rudderless team. And from experience, there’s nothing more annoying to teachers and middle school leaders than a lack of transparency around decisions.
So if you’re a learning leader, how can you ensure this process is a conscious choice, while clearly explaining who owns the decision, and how it will be made and communicated?
In the book Five Ways of Being, we explore how leaders can make purposeful decisions with genuine collaboration in mind. We call this method ‘Decisions, Decisions, Decisions’ and it’s vital in a professional learning community (PLC).
A large part of making purposeful decisions is knowing what your intention is and choosing the corresponding behaviour.
Of course, you also have to be able to communicate this clearly to your team so that everyone has the same purpose in mind.
In a collaborative team, this means every meeting should be purposeful, and the purpose of every agenda item clearly articulated.
Concrete processes should also be established. For example, if the team decides to make a decision by consensus, what does consensus mean in this situation? How will it be accomplished?
And if you’re gathering input from the team, will they have a role in the final decision, or are they simply providing important information needed to make that decision?
If team members know that they are only generating ideas, they will at least have clarity and not feel alienated.
Likewise, will you ask your team to make any recommendations? If so, how and when will the final decision be communicated to the team, and who by?
Repeat this information several times to reinforce the message.
Take time to prepare
We’re not suggesting this path is quick or straightforward. Sometimes it can take double the time of a scheduled meeting or conversation to plan purposefully for it.
But consider the alternative. How much time do we expend when we have to clean up a mess resulting from being purposeless, or half-baked? That mess can also cost us the respect, trust and commitment of our people.
Expect the unexpected
In schools, we need to expect the unexpected. It’s just not possible to prepare thoroughly for everything we encounter, which can leave us feeling caught off-guard.
But these moments – in which we need to draw on all we know about being purposeful – present both our greatest challenges and our greatest opportunities.
If we remember to keep drawing on these principles and consider what’s most important, we reduce the risk of being derailed or resorting to purposeless automatic responses.
Remember your purpose
When you manage to run a high-performing team that makes clear decisions, all members of that team should feel more productive, included and passionate about their work – and fully committed to the decisions made.
Ultimately this can only be a good thing for the students we serve.