Creating Debate to Improve Decision Making

By Liz Wiseman

There is a growing belief that good leaders are made, not born. We now know that leadership skills can be taught – that management practices can and should be refined and improved upon as leadership styles and behaviors evolve.

We are all too familiar with the leader who drains intelligence and capability out of their teams. Who, because of their need to be the smartest, most capable person in the room, often shut down the smarts of others, ultimately stifling the flow of ideas. These leaders—who we call “Diminishers”—underutilize people and leave creativity and talent on the table.

Thankfully, we also know leaders who, as capable as they are, care less about flaunting their own IQs and more about fostering a culture of intelligence in their organizations. Under the leadership of these “Multipliers,” employees don’t just feel smarter, they become smarter.

The question to then ask is: when it comes to decision-making in your organization, are you a Multiplier or a Diminisher?

And why is this important?

How decisions are made can greatly impact an organization – either creating higher levels of engagement and execution or disengagement and dissatisfaction.

Think of some important organizational decisions made recently within your company. Were there any problems that came up after the fact – in whispered conversations in hallways and cubicles – as baffled teams tried to make sense of decisions that seemed abrupt and random? Diminishers create this unproductive dynamic because they tend to make decisions alone or with input from just a small inner circle of advisers. The result is an organization left reeling, instead of executing.

By contrast, Multipliers engage people in rigorous, upfront debates about the issues at hand. They give people a chance to weigh in and consider different possibilities—ultimately strengthening team members’ understanding of the issue and increasing the likelihood that they’ll be ready to carry out whatever actions are required.

In our research, we found that Multipliers did three specific things very differently from Diminishers when it came to decision-making.

While Diminishers raise issues, dominate discussions, and force decisions, Multipliers:

  1. Frame the Issue
    1. Define the question
    2. Form the team
    3. Assemble the data
    4. Frame the decision
  2. Spark the debate
    1. Create safety for best-thinking
    2. Demand rigor
  3. Drive a Sound Decision
    1. Re-clarify the decision-making process
    2. Make the decision
    3. Communicate the decision and rationale

To become a debate maker, make a debate with four asks: ask the hard questions, ask for evidence, ask everyone, and ask people to switch positions.

So the final question is: are you a Decision Maker or a Multiplier/Debate Maker?

Liz Wiseman, is one of the top 10 leadership thinkers in the world (Thinkers50TM), She is the former VP of Oracle Corporation, renowned speaker, executive advisor and bestselling author of Multipliers