Webinar presenter Dr. Ed Sherman answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Decision Making: Maximizing Best Outcomes. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: John suggested a book by Annie Duke called How to Decide is a great book to start with. Are you familiar with Annie’s work or?
Dr. Ed Sherman: No, I’m not. So, thank you, John.
Audience Question: So, in your opinion, is it better to use surveys to make decisions or actually speak directly to people to gain results on how employees are feeling about things like their work environment?
Dr. Ed Sherman: Wow, that is an excellent question, and I have to say the answer is yes. And what I mean by that is, I think both are important tools. And let me take a moment to explain the differences between those two things. Surveys are powerful because if they are anonymous surveys, people feel as though they can give honest comments and feedback without concern of potential retribution or whatever the case may be, whatever is in the employee’s mind that they fear that if somebody does not agree or like agree with or like their comment may react negatively to that. So, surveys are really powerful, and I recommend that organizations use them. Remember, in the olden days, I will say many workplaces had a suggestion box, which literally was a wooden box with a slot on the top, and people were able to fill out anonymous suggestions and drop it in the box for the leadership to consider. We obviously have many more sophisticated means of doing that today, than we’ve had in the past. But I think the principles still apply which is: I think people are more likely to be forthright, but I don’t think it’s necessarily an either-or proposition. I think if you offer to employees the opportunity to have both available, there will be some people who are going to come forward and be able to share more specific instances of situations that occurred, recommendations, feedback. So, I think it’s wonderful if you give people the opportunity to choose which of those two mechanisms, they feel most comfortable with.
Audience Question: How do you increase willingness for peer-to-peer mentoring in office settings especially when you have senior workers who are super resistant to change?
Dr. Ed Sherman: Yeah, so that also is a very interesting question to consider, which is the bigger question is how do you get people to engage who are not willing to engage in the workplace? And so, whether it’s related to mentoring or to other activities, the answer is, I’m sorry to say, it’s difficult. And sometimes, certain people, particularly those who have been around an organization for a long period of time, feel that they either have all the skills and information they need, or that it isn’t necessary for their career stability or advancement to participate, and sometimes that’s really tough to get them on board. And so, what I suggest to leaders in that situation is to build cooperation, collaboration, communication, and trust with your team. And what I mean by that is, have the opportunity for both group settings, where you meet with your workgroup, and give them the chance to air their concerns, to talk about issues, to honor their input, and let them know that that’s safe. But there still will be people who are not likely to be open and frank in the group setting. And as a result, I think it’s also important to do what I call a check-in. And a check-in is for all leaders at all levels to periodically meet with their people individually, and just say, how are you doing? What’s going on? What’s on your mind? How are things going in the organization? What do you need? How can we allow you to perform your duties the best way possible? And so, I think that really provides a chance to build a bridge. But the one caveat I will say is, it just doesn’t work with everybody. There are some people who will be resistant despite the fact that you reach out. But here is the truth that we all know from our experience, which is that many leaders say they have an open-door policy, but they don’t actively promote that. So, if a leader actively promotes that by proactively having meetings and inviting people in to talk, I think there’s a much greater likelihood that those people will engage, not only in day-to-day conversations but help with organizational goals, such as mentoring others.
Audience Question: How do you handle a decision when you’re getting conflicting information and you have limited time to decide?
Dr. Ed Sherman: Ah, yeah, that is definitely a challenge. Thank you for that question. So, interestingly, the process of decision making I think is also possible to be called deliberation. And when you think about deliberation, and I think of it in a sense, the term that’s used with jury deliberation is a group of people go in and discuss and consider things. And that’s really what we want to bring to bear here. But ultimately, even though you get input, you as the decision-maker must be the one who decides what carries the most weight? So, even though you may have competing information, even though you may have conflicting information, what informs that is, hopefully, if you have an established relationship or you know, the situation with the people providing the information, you have as much data as possible to try to decide what parts of that information are you going to use and what parts are you less likely to use, and then, make a decision. And here’s the bottom line. All we can do is do the best job that we possibly can with the information we have at the moment we made the decision, and we may oftentimes look back on that decision and say, I could’ve, should’ve, or would’ve done something differently. Please give yourself credit for the fact that we all try to do the best that we can in the circumstance and over time, we can improve that process, but it just doesn’t always work out the way that we hope. But it is a learning process no matter what the outcome.
Audience Question: Can you talk a little bit more about how as command staff might be able to better build rapport with subordinates?
Dr. Ed Sherman: Absolutely. Again, I think it goes back to that principle, that if the only time there’s an interaction between leaders and their staff is when there is an issue, a problem, or concern, it will be stressful, it will be in a negative situation or environment, and that people will be probably less comfortable, and so that’s what they will associate with that interaction and that communication. I suggest to all leaders that if you can try to have as much day-to-day communication with your staff. And I realize everybody is extremely busy. And leaders tell me all the time, “Where would I fit that in my day?” And I say to those leaders, you know, the alternative is, if you can’t fit that in, there may be a problem or a crisis or an issue or concern that you’re not aware of that comes to the fore, and then you have to take time away from other things to deal with that. So, it’s much better, again to proactively. And I want to say, again, I call it my four pillars of effective relationship: communication, collaboration, cooperation, and trust. If you build those on a day-to-day basis with your staff, I believe that when the more difficult or stressful crisis situations come up, it will flow much more smoothly.