Inclusive Decision-Making: How New Managers Can Ensure Diverse Voices Are Heard

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

When done poorly, navigating workplace decisions can feel like navigating a complex maze. As a manager, this challenge intensifies – juggling the decision to lead independently or seek input from colleagues and direct reports for their valuable insights. Over the years, I’ve witnessed the transformative potential of inclusive and effective management skills, particularly in decision-making, and the barriers that can often get in the way. 

An inclusive workplace that illuminates a decision-making process, whether about a project, program, or strategic goal, can allow various voices to be heard. There are many ways to make an inclusive decision, but what has proven effective in my experience is when managers can understand their (and others’) values and leadership style, focus on the specific decision that needs to be made, as well as how and with whom, and finally embracing decision-making frameworks that resonate with the moment and the people involved. Let’s uncover some core points and reflection prompts that may help you the next time you’re making a decision. 

Understand your values and leadership style 

As a DEI practitioner, I’ve had clients share the challenges of making a decision. Often, what comes up is the style and approach taken that didn’t seem inclusive or equitable to the rest of the team. It can be challenging for direct reports to provide this type of feedback to their managers due to power dynamics or fear of giving critical feedback. This is why creating a psychologically safe and brave space for input and teaching managers to recognize and understand their leadership style when making decisions is essential. 

It’s also important to know how your personal values shape the ways you make decisions and what you might value during the decision-making process. For example, if you value collaboration and community (power with”), you may identify with a democratic leadership style and crave feedback from multiple people within your organization before making a decision. On the other hand, if you value independence or being in control (power over), your style may be more authoritative, and you might often choose to make decisions independently rather than asking for feedback or collaboration from various parties within your organization   

It’s important to not only become aware of your style but also the impact it has on your team and how you may need to adapt when necessary.

Reflection Prompts: What are your core values? In what ways do your values affect or shape your leadership style? How would you describe your leadership style? How do your values and leadership style influence the way you make decisions with peers, your team, and your organization? (Hubspot’s blog post of 11 leadership styles may be insightful as you reflect on these prompts.)

Focus on the specific decision that needs to be made

According to Deloitte’s Getting decision rights right” article: “a surprising number of organizations lack clarity about just what decisions need to be made, who is responsible for making them, and how the decision-making process should proceed.” In other words, the “who” “what” and “how” aren’t always clearly defined, which can make it challenging for anyone to not only make decisions but also act on carrying out the decisions that need to be made. 

To gain clarity on:

  • the “what,” it’s essential to define the decision that needs to be made. 
  • the “who,” determines who needs to be involved in the decision-making process and who will be impacted by the decision.
  • the “how,” establish a decision-making process by utilizing decision-making methodologies and frameworks.

Reflection prompts: What formal or informal mechanisms exist for you to review or gather information about the decision that needs to be made? Do you need to reflect further or ask your team about symptoms and root causes of the issue at hand, if any? How can you prioritize the main issue(s) and frame the next steps? Who needs to be involved?

Embrace decision-making frameworks or methods that resonate with your team

At our company, we’ve embraced various processes and frameworks to help us make decisions as a group. While we’re a small team, we recognize that it’s vital to have clear direction on how we make decisions and what the expectations are for us individually and collectively. Here are a few methods that have been helpful:

  • Decision Rules: An explicit agreement and practice of when and how a decision is made and by whom (e.g., the person in charge decides without/after group decision, majority vote, unanimous agreement).
  • Decision-making tree: A visual tool used to share different possible decisions and outcomes. This can be used in the decision-making process.
  • Liberating structures: Methods, tools, and activities that can be used to facilitate or support group decision-making processes.
  • SWOT Analysis: A tool used to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to help with creating a strategy or a particular decision. 
  • RACI/RASCI: A responsibility matrix that helps you identify who is responsible, accountable, supported, consulted, and informed in the decision-making process. Other notable methods include RAPID and DACI.

Reflection prompts: What do you, as a manager, need to make a decision? What does your group need? What guidelines or processes might support you and your team during the decision-making process? 

Practicing the art of inclusive decision-making requires a multifaceted approach rooted in, self-awareness, understanding your team and their needs, and being open to trying out various methodologies. By navigating these complex intersections, you can create an environment where your team members can be involved in paving the way for impactful outcomes, success and innovation. 

Want to learn more about the art of inclusive decision-making as a manager? Interested in bringing our Inclusive Decision-Making for Leaders Workshop to your company? Complete our contact form and we’ll be in touch.