T R U S T Strategies for Building Trust and Involvement

T R U S T Strategies for Building Trust
T O O L K I T and Involvement
Why Trust Matters
companies are getting stronger; leaders are getting
By Linda Stewart, President and
CEO, Interaction Associates
are more willing to trust each other and collaborate.
credit for navigating tough times; and employees
But the bad news, which should be keeping leaders
As the U.S. economy strengthens, however unevenly,
up at night, centers around a growing trust gap:
business leaders are facing a central challenge with
Employees’ trust in management is lagging. More
important implications: How are you bridging the
specifically: leaders are getting low marks from
trust gap with employees? The answer to this has
employees for decision-making transparency,
broad implications for your business results.
managing change, listening to employees, giving
What trust gap, you might ask?
feedback, and learning from mistakes.
Over the past three years, Interaction Associates
Our Building Trust survey goes beyond just
has been tracking trust issues on the job through
trust to include key indicators for leadership and
our annual workplace survey, Building Trust in
collaboration — pointing to how high-performing
Business. The results of our 2011 survey have
companies achieve key business results by
good news and bad news for senior leaders who
emphasizing all three. At Interaction Associates,
are focused on results. First, the good news:
we are in the business of helping clients achieve
Employee confidence is growing around issues like
greater and more sustainable levels of business ROI
company financial health, leadership effectiveness,
by concentrating on a different ROI — Return on
and organizational collaboration. In other words,
© Interaction Associates
We stress a critical principle for achieving excellent
ROI: Involved employees share in the responsibility
to deliver strong results. In other words, we know
that deeply engaged employees and a collaborative
culture of shared responsibility for success leads
to impressive business outcomes. Said more
pointedly, from the employees’ perspective, in
highly collaborative and engaged workplaces: We
care. We have skin in the game. We deliver results.
So, what about that trust gap? In terms of ROI as
we measure it — employees who distrust leaders
are not highly engaged; they don’t feel a shared
responsibility for success – so no skin in the
game, and no responsibility for results. Whether
you know this intuitively or have read study after
study over the last ten years, there is no denying
the involvement factor can make or break your
We believe that companies must go beyond
Linda Stewart is President and CEO
of Interaction Associates, Inc. She is
a senior executive with more than 25
years’ experience building, leading, and
improving profitable companies in fastpaced global environments – including
as a senior executive leader for several
divisions of one of the world’s largest
financial services companies. Her
experience includes a strong history of
building high-performing, loyal teams
that consistently exceeded performance
expectations — a key measure of Return
on Involvement that is central to the
collaborative and results-oriented
cultures and leaders that Interaction
Associates develops for clients.
engagement to the place where everyone shares in
the responsibility for executing the business plans
and delivering results.
Return on Involvement is a simple but powerful
concept that, when executed properly, results in the
traditional ROI: return on investment.
As a 25-year senior business executive with a
strong bias for results, I know the importance
of both ROIs — and I know how critical it is that
leaders build trust with employees in order for
teams to excel, to ensure everyone has more skin
in the game and to deliver your business results. I
hope this toolkit is helpful to you. Please reach out
to us at 617.535.2700 if we can be of assistance.
© Interaction Associates
Why Trust Matters
The evolving business world demands a new level of mutual trust
Facilitating Trust
What leaders need to know for maximizing trust
Individual Trust Assessment
Use this assessment to discover your own trust gaps
Giving Feedback: Key to Building Trust
Five steps for giving strong, regular, and consistent feedback
Delegating to Others
How delegating builds trust and empowers employees
Decision Making and Trust
Involve people in decisions to heighten trust
© 2011 Interaction Associates, Inc.
Trust Toolkit
All rights reserved. This work, or parts thereof, may not be
reproduced in any form, including photocopy, for internal use or
for sale without written permission from the copyright holder.
San Francisco
ph 415.343.2600
ph 617.535.7000
Regardless of how we define trust, the
one common element that warrants the
attention of leaders and organizations is
this: Whenever we choose to trust, we give
something of inestimable value.
Facilitating Trust:
What Leaders Need
To Know
Trust describes an attribute of our
relationship to a surprising number of things.
We talk about trusting a person, for example:
“I would trust her with my life.” We may talk
about trusting an object: “You expect me
to cross the gorge on that bridge?!” We can
trust (or not) a situation, a company’s brand,
or a celebrity endorsing a product.
By Jay Cone
Regardless of how we define trust, the one
common element that warrants the attention
of leaders and organizations is this: Whenever
we choose to trust, we give something of
inestimable value. In this article, I talk briefly
about why it’s worthwhile to pay attention
to trust and then describe a framework for
understanding what people want in return
for their trust. I conclude with practical tips
for leaders who want to facilitate trusting
relationships and create a work environment
where trust thrives.
Facilitating Trust:
What Leaders Need To Know
intentionally avoiding me. The distrusted leader
Getting the Benefit of the Doubt
versus Getting Second Guessed
against me.
If trust is ultimately about giving something of
value, what exactly is it that we’re giving, and
what makes it so valuable? The gift I offer when I
choose to trust we idiomatically refer to as “giving
the benefit of the doubt.”
Essentially, when I trust, I’m choosing to hold
the belief that something good will happen
instead of holding the belief that something
bad will happen, even when the available facts
make either outcome equally likely. I’m positively
disposed toward that which I trust, so that at the
point in time I’m required to act I’m betting on
a favorable - or at least, a harmless - outcome.
Because we hold a world-view that our interests
are being protected, we ascribe positive
asks for a report, and I assume she is checking
up on me, or gathering ammunition to be used
Our true relationship to our leaders generally
falls somewhere in between these extremes. The
point here is to consider the implications to the
organization when I freely give the benefit of the
doubt, versus the implications of my secondguessing what leaders are up to.
Our Trust Profile – How we Assess Trustworthiness
A deeper look at one theory of motivation sheds
light on what each of us needs in order to trust.
David McClelland considered three different
attributes (Achievement, Control, and Affiliation)
as distinct categories of needs we each have.
In an organizational setting, we can think of
McClelland’s attributes as: Results, Process, and
Relationship (RPR).
intentions to a trusted leader, and look for ways
to reinforce our beliefs. The trusted leader is late
for an appointment, and I assume something
unavoidable is preventing her from arriving on
for Success
time. The trusted leader asks for a report, and I
assume that she is preparing for a critical meeting
and wants to feel prepared.
When I’m unwilling to give the benefit of the
doubt - or worse, when I fear something bad will
happen - I begin to “second guess” the actions of
a leader. Instead of ascribing positive intentions,
I speculate about hidden agendas or motives
that do not necessarily align with my interests.
The distrusted leader is late for an appointment,
and I assume she doesn’t value my time, or is
© Interaction Associates
Results satisfaction relates to our desire to
strive for a goal or accomplish a task. Process
satisfaction relates to our desire for predictability
and influence. Relationship satisfaction is about
our needs for rapport: how we’re treated, and
the extent to which we feel valued, included,
and safe. To find out how you might score using
this framework, please complete the Trust
Assessment on page 8.
Applying McClelland’s attributes to trust, we can
At other times, I may pay exclusive attention to
begin to see how our personality dictates the
my relationships and let deadlines slip. Generally,
criteria we follow when making an assessment
however, I’m clear about what it takes for me
of trustworthiness. If results matter to me, then
to consider an individual trustworthy. Those
I will consider an individual trustworthy based
who demonstrate over time that they share my
on whether commitments are met. If I can count
priorities among attention to results, process, and
on you to do what you say you’re going to do, I
relationship are most likely to get the benefit of
will trust you. In other words, like me, you place a
the doubt from me.
value on accomplishing what you set out to do.
Leaders who want to be viewed as trustworthy
If process matters to me, then I will consider an
by a diverse group of people should pay equal
individual trustworthy based on the predictability
attention to 1) doing what you say you’re going
of that person’s approach to things. If the way
to do, 2) having a clear, consistent, and well
you plan, strategize, sequence, and organize your
communicated approach, and 3) demonstrating
approach makes sense to me, then I will trust
that how people feel about their work and their
you. Like me, you
If trust is ultimately
about giving
something of value,
what exactly is it that
we’re giving, and what
makes it so valuable?
value having a
consistent and
orderly process,
so I know what to
If relationship
matters to me,
then I will consider
an individual trustworthy based on how he/
she treats me and others. If you’re inclusive,
encourage openness, and you demonstrate
empathy, then I can trust you. Like me, you value
people’s feelings and consider how decisions and
situations will impact people, so I know you’ll look
out for me and my interests.
Of course, we apply all three attributes to varying
degrees based on the situation, the context, and
the people involved. At times, I’m focused on the
goal and may ignore the people and the process.
© Interaction Associates
colleagues matters.
Jay Cone has
spent the past 25
years focusing
on leadership
strategic thinking,
and innovation
Prior to joining
Interaction Associates, Jay worked in the
food service industry as a training manager,
Human Resources director, and internal
consultant. Jay has presented at the
National Restaurant Association’s National
Show, The Southwest Food Expo, and the
Texas Restaurant Association’s Educational
Foundation Management Conference. His
articles on leadership development have
appeared in Training Magazine, The Training
and Development Journal, and The American
Society for Training and Development’s Best of
Customer Service Training. Jay served on the
editorial review committee for David Straus’
book, How to Make Collaboration Work,and
contributed to Chip Bell’s book on building
partnerships, Dance Lessons.
Trust Assessment
This assessment is designed for
use with the guidelines outlined in
“Facilitating Trust,” by Jay Gordon Cone.
A completely
Part 1
Part 2
Fill in the number that represents the degree
to which you believe the statement accurately
describes the person or team you’re rating.
Fill in the number that represents the degree
to which you believe the statement accurately
describes the current situation you’re considering.
Regarding the person or team I lead…
Regarding our current situation…
Willingly takes risks...................................................
The stakes are low – the worst that could happen
isn’t that bad...................................................................
Expresses optimism, often describes the benefits
the future will bring...................................................
The situation is familiar......................................................
Has formal or informal power/has influence
over others.................................................................
The people involved share similar views and opinions
about things....................................................................
Always expresses faith that things will work out........
The people involved have aligned interests and goals.....
Willingly shares personal thoughts and feelings........
The people involved tend to look out for one another.....
Rarely expresses concern over “what the boss
will think”...................................................................
Leadership’s actions and decisions are fairly
Safety score (average of the ratings above)..........
People are well informed about what’s going on..............
Certainty score (average of the ratings above)..........
Part 3
Plot the “Safety Score” and the “Certainty Score”
on the graph below.
What the person or group being asked
to trust wants from their leaders…
The survey and graph are based on the research of
Robert F. Hurley as described in his article The Decision
to Trust; Harvard Business Review, September 2006
© Interaction Associates
Facilitating Trust:
What Leaders Need To Know
Tips for Building Trust
After assessing a team or an individual using the linked survey, you’ll end up with a coordinate that falls
into one of the quadrants on the graph. Each quadrant suggests a unique strategy. Each strategy has a
number of tactics, or tips, a leader can employ:
To Increase Transparency
(high safety, low certainty)
• Express the rationale for your actions and decisions (see Levels of Involvement in Decision
• Externalize your thought process: “I’m trying to figure out . . . and right now I’m thinking that ... “
• Hold frequent meetings to communicate both what’s known and what’s not known.
To Increase Appreciation (low safety, high certainty)
• Focus on what’s working.
• Say “Thank you.”
• Learn what matters to the people with whom you work.
• Offer appropriate rewards and recognition (see Celebrating Accomplishment*).
To Increase Empathy (low safety, low certainty)
• Listen actively without judgment (see inquiry techniques).
• Share your own feelings about facing uncertain situations.
• Check your understanding: “Are you saying that . . . ?”
To Increase Rapport (high safety, high certainty)
• Learn about the personal histories and interests of people.
• Share personal information about yourself and your vision of success (see Sharing an Inspiring
• Enjoy relationship-building activities not specifically related to getting work done.
Naturally, all the above ideas would be helpful in any set of circumstances for building productive working
relationships. Thinking through how individual styles and changing situations impact people’s willingness
to trust will help you set priorities for change management and communication.
*These strategies are taught, modeled, and practiced in Interaction Associates’
leadership development workshop Facilitative Leadership®.
© Interaction Associates
Feedback is the oil in the engine of teamwork:
keep it flowing and the engine can operate at a
high level with no damage; let it dry up and your
engine could seize up or fail completely, potentially beyond repair.
While most leaders would agree with this analogy, most do not ensure that regular feedback
is a part of their organization’s culture. They
miss an easy way to make performance improvements, improve morale, increase trust,
and develop employees. Feedback is avoided
for many reasons: fear of an emotional reaction, fear of retaliation, or the lack of a strategy
for having the conversation. The problem is, the
issue that is driving a need for feedback will not
go away on its own, but tends to get worse until
the person cannot stand it anymore. This leads
to “drive-by” feedback: a quick hit of why you
are driving me crazy, then a quick escape. On
the receiving side, even employees who want
to improve fear having to defend themselves or
agree to something they do not really believe.
The solution lies in leadership modeling of feedback, and the use of some simple but powerful
guidelines for giving, or better yet, exchanging,
feedback. It is an organizational truism that
the higher one goes in an organization, the
less feedback one gets. So start by asking for
feedback from others, and then be very careful
not to get defensive. Then try to act in a visible
To Feedback
way on the feedback. This will show the organization you are willing to “go first” and lead the
way before you ask others to make a change. If
feedback is the “breakfast of champions,” you
will need to eat the first meal yourself.
By Michael Papanek
To Feedback
Successful feedback must be focused on three key dimensions: results,
process, and relationship. The feedback must increase results, use a clear
process, and lead to enhanced, rather than diminished, relationships. This
can be done by following these guidelines:
1. Choose when to give the feedback.
If you are too angry or upset yourself, you will not be able to give the
feedback in a respectful way. Wait until you cool down. Also, find a time
and place which allows the employee to hear the feedback (especially
negative) in private and a time when they can handle it emotionally, but
do not wait so long that they can no longer act on the input. Positive
feedback should be given quickly, when the employee is still “sweating
from the effort.”
2. Describe the behavior in as objective language as
possible and be specific.
Words like “bad attitude” will not be understood and will seem
3. State the impact of the behavior on you, the team, the
goal, the client, etc.
Saying what the impact is allows the receiver of the feedback to better
Michael Papanek is a Senior
Consultant with Interaction
Associates. He has been a
trainer, facilitator, coach,
and collaboration consultant
to clients in high-tech,
retail, healthcare, and
financial services, as well
as local, state, and federal
governments. Most recently,
Michael has led the “reinvention” of IA’s model for
delivering value to our clients,
using emerging technologies
to help our clients gain more
value and impact from IA’s
collaborative tools
and strategies.
understand why they should change or at least consider the input.
4. Make a suggestion or request.
You may ask them to change a behavior that is not working, to continue
or do more of an effective behavior, or to simply understand your
point of view. “You are not well organized” is a criticism, not feedback.
Have a concrete action in mind so the employee has a clear path to
5. Lastly, check for understanding and be open to
alternative views.
There may be relevant facts of which you are unaware and asking for
a response avoids just dumping on the employee and damaging the
© Interaction Associates
Whether you’re a leader at your company,
or you help develop them, the practice of
delegating to others successfully is both an
art and a science. And the upside to your
organization is huge: Effective delegation
can empower and engage employees, fuel
initiatives, and spur energy and creativity.
What’s more, delegation clears a leader’s
crowded plate of things that someone else
can do, so you can focus on the things you
must do. When a leader excels at delegating,
How to
ownership and accountability take off, too.
According to a former client, Steve Arneson,
who is also the author of Bootstrap
1. Delegation is your most precious
management resource. It allows you to get
more work done and frees you up to focus
By Jamie Harris
on critical tasks.
2. Get good at delegating – now. You won’t
survive doing everything yourself; start
getting the team involved.
3.Once you delegate, step back. You’re
giving others the assignment, and also the
authority to do it their way. They might not
do it exactly as you would, but that’s OK –
they might do it better!
Delegating is critical to a leader’s success, and
are delegating; be clear with yourself and the
yet many leaders struggle to do it effectively.
employee that you are simply assigning a task with
Delegating unsuccessfully is far more common,
a defined outcome and defined way to accomplish
and there are different ways to see how it fails. One
it. Honest clarity will benefit both parties.
is where the leader has delegated decisions and
actions, and then does not accept the resulting
Assuming you really do intend to delegate
decisions or actions of the employee. Another
responsibility and authority for some key decisions
common type is when a leader doesn’t “let go”
in regard to the work to be done, then there is a
and continues to micromanage how the work is
useful discipline that will increase your chances
done, which is often worse than not delegating.
of success. Delegation is a form of management
Unsuccessful delegation results in frustrated
conversation that involves certain key components
employees, rework, disempowerment, and a
for success. Understanding and practicing these
vicious spiral of declining trust.
key components in a thoughtful way, in a spirit of
shared responsibility, works for both the leader
How do you make delegation work?
and the employee.
First, understand the difference between assigning
a task and delegating responsibility coupled with
A flexible “Big Picture” model is helpful for moving
authority. If you feel there is only one right way
from problem to solution, as depicted in the
to get something done, or only one way you will
circle-arrow-circle model below. This framework
accept, then simply assign the task with great
summarizes the components of a successful
precision, including “how” you want it to be
delegation conversation:
done. In this situation, don’t pretend that you
Problem or
The Manager-Employee
Set Up
• Desired Outcomes
• Topics and Flow
• Big Picture
© Interaction Associates
Follow Up
• The Task and Goal
• Rationale for
Employee’s Selection
• Expectations and
• Resources
• Communication
• Summary of
• Immediate Next Steps
• Meeting Plus/Delta
How to Delegate Successfully
Clear agreements
about how and
when the employee
and the leader will
communicate about the
work give both parties
a sense of security
and help reduce the
tendencies toward
and intrusion by
leaders about how the
work is going.
As a leader, you need to be clear on “The Big
A simple statement
Picture.” What is the problem or opportunity that
of the Desired
calls for some delegation of responsibility? In
Outcomes might
general terms, what is the outcome are you looking
sound like this: “In
for? As a leader, you must make a conscious
this conversation
choice about who you’re delegating to. Does
I want to delegate
he/she have a particular expertise? Is this an
a specific
opportunity for stretch and growth of the person?
“Drive-by” delegation, i.e., choosing a person to
to you, be sure
delegate something important to just based on
you have a full
happenstance or mere expedience, often leads
understanding of
to disappointment. With the Big Picture in mind
the project and
and a reasoned choice of employee, the facilitative
my constraints,
leader will then plan for an effective conversation
and agree on what
including three phases: Set Up, Engage, and
support you may need to get the job done.” The
“topics and flow” could be as simple as “First
let me describe the Big Picture and what this is
Setting Up the Conversation
all about in general terms. Then I’ll define the
A delegation conversation basically is a meeting
job I want you to take on and we can discuss the
but, as in any meeting, the facilitative leader
parameters and constraints I have in mind and
wants to be sure all participants understand the
any questions you have. Then we’ll talk about your
objectives and agenda of the meeting before
ideas about support and resources you think you
diving directly into the content. At the beginning
might need and come up with agreements on how
of any conversation with a senior manager an
we’ll communicate about this project while you’re
employee is often wondering: What’s this about?
working on it. How does that sound to you?”
Why me? Where is this conversation going? Taking
a few minutes at the beginning to describe The
The Engage Phase
Big Picture provides context. Laying out a simple
In the Engage phase, the task and goals are defined
agenda gives a roadmap for the conversation. This
as well as the expectations, constraints, and
set-up part of the conversation will help answer
requirements the leader has relating to the task. A
the employee’s natural questions and allow the
frequent breakdown in delegation occurs when the
employee to focus on the content rather than
leader has not sufficiently thought through what
continue to be distracted by the questions and
his/her expectations, boundaries, and constraints
uncertainties in his or her head.
actually are — or, after having done so, fails to
communicate them effectively.
© Interaction Associates
Lacking understanding of expectations or
level of detail that will be exchanged? At what
constraints, the employee goes off and does what
points will the leader provide feedback, course
he/she thinks is the right thing, only to find out that
corrections, reviews, approvals? Who else needs to
the result is not accepted because of something in
be communicated with during the work, and how
the leader’s mind she didn’t know about because
will that communication be conducted?
the leader failed to tell her. In discussing the
expectations, boundaries, and constraints it is
On to Completion
important that you encourage lots of questions and
Here, in the spirit of “Go Slow to Go Fast,” the
allow challenges. This is an important part of the
facilitative leader will slow down to check for
shared responsibility for success. The employee
understanding of the key agreements reached
needs to have crystal clarity about expectations
during the conversation, discuss and build
and constraints. By thinking them through
agreement on next steps, and at least occasionally
together, the employee can actually help the leader
ask for some feedback from the employee about
clarify and communicate his or her thoughts
what worked and what could be done better in the
more clearly, but only if the leader encourages
conversation. Complex delegations with multiple
and supports meaningful questions and dialogue.
important agreements are of course typically put
A frequent flaw here is when leaders assume
into writing.
understanding simply because he/she says
but is not questioned by the employee (yet not
really understood).
Often the hardest
something which is perfectly clear to the leader
part comes next —
The art and science
of delegation, like
any other, requires
conscious practice.
Other key topics, as indicated in the framework,
you need to step
include why the person was selected for the
back and follow the
delegation, resources, and communication.
agreements that
Obviously the more these topics are clear and
were made, especially
mutually understood up front, the less time you
about the when and how of communication around
will have to spend down the road dealing with
the work. And when the employee brings back
issues and problems. Clear agreements about
the results, you need to accept the outcomes so
how and when the employee and the leader will
long as they are consistent with the expectations
communicate about the work give both parties a
and parameters that were agreed upon at the
sense of security and help reduce the tendencies
beginning. When you change your mind and
toward micro-management and intrusion by
reject decisions or work that is consistent with the
leaders about how the work is going. When will
communicated expectations and parameters, the
check-ins and reports be expected? What is the
stage has been set for frustration and mistrust that
© Interaction Associates
How to Delegate Successfully
will have a long and counter-productive life in the
future relationship between leader and employee.
A simple story will help to clarify how this
framework provides real and lasting value. I
recently taught this model and related inquiry and
advocacy skills to 12 mid-level managers in a large
and complex public agency. They were requested
to consciously practice using the framework in
a delegation conversation between two sessions
of the learning process. When they returned to
the next session all 12 said using the framework
to prepare for conduct a delegation conversation
was extremely valuable to them. Comments
included: “It forced me to really choose the right
person.” “Thinking about my constraints helped
me to overcome my usual tendency to micromanage people so I could let go.” “When I had
the conversation, and encouraged my employee
to ask questions about my expectations, he got
really engaged and excited about the task. I could
see how motivated he was getting as we had more
dialogue and answered his questions.”
The art and science of delegation, like any other,
Jamie Harris is Chair of the Board
and a Senior Consultant with 15
years’ experience in organizational
consulting, facilitation, and design
and delivery of collaborative skills
training, primarily in the financial
services, health care, hi-tech, and
public service sectors. He has a BA
in Political Science and Economics
and JD from Yale University. Before
joining IA, Jamie had 24 years’
experience in business law, during
the last 15 of which he served
as managing partner of his San
Francisco firm. He is a member of the
Organization Development Institute,
the California Bar, and the American
Bar Association. His published
work has appeared in Executive
Excellence, H.R.com, Harvard
Business School Mentoring series,
and The International Association of
Facilitators Handbook, among others.
requires conscious practice. The purpose of
the framework is to focus attention on the key
elements that need to be considered and practiced
just like music theory focuses on the key chords
and scales that have to be practiced to play jazz. In
leadership as in music, the best improvisations are
based on careful preparation.
© Interaction Associates
In the 2011 Trust In Business Results
findings, we learn that leaders are getting
low marks from employees for decision
making and transparency. Results like
these indicate a lack of simple, basic
decision making skills. And in particular:
the skills needed to make good decisions
that stick.
There are two primary places where
business decisions break down:
1. In the group, where the decisionmaking process doesn’t work.
2. Organizationally - beyond the decision-
Decision Making
and Trust
making leader or group.
In order to help managers rise in the
estimations of their employees, let’s first
look at a couple of very common problems
with decision making inside the group, and
By Patty McManus
propose what to do about them.
Decision Making and Trust
Scoping a Decision
Often, a group leaps into making a decision before it
The antidote to this problem is to use a framework
has effectively scoped the decision at hand. In other
that we call the Levels of Involvement™.
words, the boundary of the decision is so unclear
that each team member is seeking agreement on
a different decision. You can recognize this is going
• There is lots of wheel-spinning, and people are
talking about the same issue in different ways.
• People are in agreement about the overall issue,
but fighting about details.
• The group appears to be deciding six things at
Level of Ownership
on in your team when:
Input from
Group and
Input from
The solution is to ask the question: “What is it we’re
Level of Involvement
trying to decide?” In the case of the purchase of a
* Fallback can be to any other level
product, is the decision to purchase it, explore its
feasibility, or make a recommendation to senior
Using the Levels of Involvement helps you reflect
management? Come up with a clear statement
on a variety of factors that influence the decision,
of what you are deciding, and carry on from
so that you can choose to involve the appropriate
there. If there are several steps to the decision,
people at the right level of input and influence. Its
break it down into its smaller agreements before
power comes from thinking through HOW it should
be made, and WHO should be involved, before
making the decision. You can increase ownership,
Nailing the Decision Making Process
empower employees, gain their trust, and get a high
Another issue to consider is that often the decision-
Return on Involvement when you use this model. It
making process isn’t clear. The leader believes she
will also help you avoid consensus paralysis.
is getting input, and makes the decision based on
that input. But the members of the group think
One of the most important things a leader can do
they are making the decision. This sets up false
is be transparent and explicit about how much
expectations. When the leader makes a decision
or how little involvement she is seeking – so
that is contrary to the input, the team doesn’t
that expectations are realistic and confusion is
understand. What they thought they supported,
they don’t.
© Interaction Associates
Breakdown Dead Ahead!
The solution here is for the group to know the
Now what about the decisions that break down
outside the group, in the larger organization? Many
business decisions are made by, or influenced
by, a team - where people are representing the
interests of constituencies inside or outside the
organization. But these team members may not
have the expertise or be fully equipped to represent
these other group’s stakes. They may decide
to implement
something that
isn’t feasible
The solution here is
for the group to know
the options, define
the problem, and
agree on a certain
few milestone points
where it will check in
with key stakeholders.
because of
technical, legal,
financial, or other
options, define the problem, and agree on a certain
few milestone points where it will check in with key
stakeholders. These points should be built into an
involvement map, so everyone knows when they’ll
occur, who will be involved, and how the input
will be used. These key input points should be
predictable to everyone involved.
These simple, actionable methods are not a cure
for every bad decision. But together they form a
powerful way to move forward with confidence.
They definitely increase the odds of making wise
choices, knowing when agreements are made, and
keeping decisions sticky, not squishy.
people rush into
a decision for
expediency’s sake,
but the decision
can’t pass the
reality test. If the
leader or team members had checked in with the
handful of people who had the needed expertise,
they would have been able to represent these vital
points of view and decide on a reasonable solution.
The challenge is that organizations are trying to
build structures and processes that support faster
decision making. Over-reliance on consensus
slows things down; not to mention that it can
drive everyone crazy! But common decisionmaking structures built for speed don’t always
accommodate badly-needed input. So a decision is
Patty McManus is a Senior Consultant who
has worked in the fields of Organization
Development and Learning for over twenty
years. In the first ten years of her career
she was an internal consultant at UC
Berkeley, Kaiser Permanente, and Apple
Computer. Since she joined IA in 1997,
she has consulted across a broad range
of clients and projects. In addition, she
has held several leadership positions
in IA over the years. She holds a BA in
General Psychology, an MS in Industrial/
Organizational Psychology (both from San
Francisco State University) and did postgraduate internships at Kaiser Permanente
and the Stanford Business School.
made without that key input.
© Interaction Associates
Interaction Associates is a 40-year innovator helping
global organizations build collaborative cultures and
achieve excellence in a new measure of ROI —Return
on Involvement —where employees go “beyond
engagement” to share responsibility for business
results. We develop leaders at all levels and focus on
building proficiency in collaboration, strategic thinking,
and self-awareness. With offices in Boston and San
Francisco, our services include organization-wide
consulting, learning solutions, and coaching. For more
info: www.interactionassociates.com
© Interaction Associates