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Let Me Remind You Why This Isn’t a Democracy
Inclusive leaders ask for opinions and seek input from those affected by an upcoming decision. They encourage team members to voice their concerns and to offer better ways of doing things. Because they understand the connection between listening to others and team member engagement, they are open and receptive to whatever is important to those they lead.
This openness, in turn, encourages team members to get more involved and to express themselves regarding just about every decision and policy. When they disagree with a decision or fail to win the day with their advocacy, they sometimes wonder why the team doesn’t simply vote on the idea rather than to leave it the leader or the executive team to decide.
Those brave enough sometimes suggest a more idealistic approach: Wouldn’t a democratic rule work even better to create even more inclusion and buy-in? Let’s just gather the facts, propose the decision, and vote on it!
Unfortunately, what works for politics and community relations doesn’t work for organizations and teams. Deciding by majority rule where everyone’s vote counts equally is a recipe for mediocrity and ineffectiveness. Explaining why, especially to those with less experience, is something good leaders need to do on occasion.
Enterprises of any kind benefit immensely from taking full advantage of opportunities that present themselves and quickly mitigating the challenges and risks associated with unforeseen problems. Effective leaders and teams are highly decisive and move with speed when they need to.
Involving everyone, or even those directly affected, is not always practical or wise if it slows down the decision-making process. Opportunities lost and problems that spiral out of control are the outcomes of democracy in the workplace.
Expertise is another significant reason why democratic decision-making doesn’t make sense in the workplace. In all organizations, specialized knowledge and expertise is not evenly distributed. To make the best decisions and to produce the highest quality outcomes, organizations delegate responsibility and authority to those with the deepest expertise and the most advanced skills. This is how performance quality is elevated. To compromise on quality through a democratic process invariably undermines the ability of an enterprise to compete.
For a handful of less experienced team members, the more they are asked for their opinion, input, and advocacy, the more they think the workplace should be a democracy. Reminding them that what works in society is not what is best for organizations is something good leaders do. Let’s not vote on that.