I love the Netflix show, “The Crown” about the English monarchy from  the mid- 20th century till now. The third season is about to drop and Helena Bonham Carter will be playing Princess Margaret in her middle years. Most of us don’t have the initials HRH behind our names so our ability to “pull rank” is not so clear.

Even when we have “rank,” knowing when and how to use it can be complex and ambiguous. Most leaders want to be collaborative, inclusive and empowering. I was talking with a leader recently, and he said, “I ask for people’s input, but then many of them think it’s a democracy where majority rules. At the end of the day, I have to make the decision that I think is best for the organization.”

I had a boss one time who handled this dilemma quite simply. He never asked for people’s opinion. He phrased it this way: “If you ask people for input, they’re going to expect for you to take it; so I don’t ask.” Probably not the best way. Imagine the lost opportunities for better solutions and great ideas, not to mention the likelihood of highly disengaged employees.

As leaders, how do we acquire valuable ideas and insights from our associates and yet make it clear that the ultimate decision may differ from their input, and that they are expected to implement and support the ultimate decision. Here’s a handy graphic:

What’s My Role?

  1. Be clear, who is the decision maker? Is it an individual; is it a committee? If this is not clear, it sets the stage for misunderstanding and resentment. A way to make it clear:“As an organization we need to decide how we’re going to handle XXX. Before the executive committee makes this decision, we’d like your best ideas on how to do this.” The associates then provide the best insight they can based on their role and expertise
  2. The decision is made. The time for input on possible solutions has passed. No rehashing of the decision unless new information becomes available (such as a change in regulations, etc.
  3. After the decision is made, everyone supports it and does their best to implement it effectively. Some wording:“Thank you everyone for your valuable input concerning XXX. We appreciate your input and expertise. We carefully considered all the relevant factors, and we have decided XXX. We look forward to everyone’s best efforts as we implement this solution.”

Clarity about goals, roles, and responsibilities can eliminate confusion and resentment in the decision making process.