Extraordinary Team Blog

Team Input to Boss Important

Posted by Kristin Arnold on January 30, 2010

Remember, whatever issue you are working on, the boss doesn’t have all the answers.  The boss can (and often does) identify the issues, assign priorities, direct tasks, measure progress, etc.  But the boss doesn’t do the work.  You do.  And who knows best how the work should be done?  You do.  So why not get your input in the process?  Working as a team, you will have higher quality and a greater stake in successfully carrying out the decision.

A funny thing happens when the boss suddenly wants input.  The team freaks.  Employees wonder why the boss isn’t telling them what to do — like the boss usually does.  At first, team members either welcome or resist the idea.  Many will watch the boss to see what happens with their ideas.  Will the boss smile?  Grimace?  Favor one person over another?  Over the long term, will the boss accept the team decisions?  The team will watch the boss carefully to see how committed hr or she is to the team concept.

Beware of the “rock phenomenon” where the boss asks the team for a “rock” and they bring back a different rock.  So the boss says “wrong rock” and tells the team to search for another rock — with little or no guidance.

To avoid the “rock phenomenon,” the boss should take time to explain the reasons for asking for input, any parameters or constraints, as well as how the decision will be made.  Is the boss simply getting team input and then making the final decision?  Or is the team aiming for consensus where the boss is but one voice and the team agrees to live with and support the decision?  The key to a consensus decision is that anyone on the team (including the boss) has an opportunity to voice their opinion.

Keep in mind that if the team cannot come to a consensus, then the decision will fall back to the boss (or a majority vote).  So don’t worry, the boss still has input and if push comes to shove, the final say.  Over time, the team will trust that their ideas are truly valued and are important to achieving a team consensus.

Recognize that it takes a lot of guts for a boss to open up and ask for input.  The boss may not like what’s said and may feel compelled to justify each comment.  And the team may feel uncomfortable being open and honest.  So watch out for the “dashboard dog” effect where everyone on the team just repeats what they think the boss wants to hear.  The best thing a boss can do is sit back and actively listen.  Try not to judge and evaluate what’s been said.  Then add your idea as one among all the others.  Challenge others to discuss the issues openly.  And don’t punish them for speaking up.

Question:  How does your boss handle input from your team?

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