How Do I Get a Seat at the Table?
In the contemporary organization of inclusion and consensus, leaders are bombarded by team members who want to participate in the decision-making that affects both them and the team.
After any real time in a role, team members want to know how they can get a seat at the decision-making table. Over time, this request begins to sound urgent.
The logic is flawless: If I’m such a valuable contributor, why wouldn’t you want me to participate fully (and at the table) when critical decisions need to be made?
Good leaders know that only so many people can be included in major decisions. If you have more than a large handful of decision-makers, discussions become unwieldy, overly complex, and replete with competing viewpoints that often reflect self-interest.
Too many voices yield low-quality decisions. Yet, the desire to include strong performers in the process is of real interest and concern.
The best leaders solve this dilemma by distinguishing between input and advocacy within the organization and team. When team members offer input, they do so up against a problem or opportunity of importance. They offer their views and justify them with data or supporting facts. Input doesn’t require an audience. The chance to weigh in and offer a preferred outcome or approach can be done in a variety of mediums and formats.
Advocacy, on the other hand, is about actively staking out a position and persuading others to yield to this view. It requires sound analysis of competing facts, robust discussion, and rigorous debate. Reaching a quality decision requires both input from all stakeholders and advocacy from those mandated to reach a conclusion for the organization or team.
Leaders can’t always expand the size of the group that decides on strategic decisions critical to the success of the enterprise. Too many cooks in the kitchen, as they say. But what they can do is design input processes so that everyone who should have a voice can be heard. The more input in a timely manner, the better.
When those impatient with requesting a seat at the table know they can weigh in on any decision that affects them, the dissatisfaction of not being at the table is partially mollified.
Not everyone who wants to participate in a decision can be accommodated in most organizations. Yet, well-designed processes for input can allow everyone to have a voice. The best leaders insist on acquiring the views of all stakeholders affected by a decision, but they reserve the debate for a limited number of colleagues with the seniority, experience, and analytical skills to carefully craft a decision.
Input and advocacy are different animals. Good leaders design decision-making processes accordingly.