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Your Company Is Not a Democracy

Source | LinkedIn : By Brian de Haaff

We are living in unsettling times. In 2016, you may have found yourself saying “What?!” out loud a lot. And I am betting that this year your knee-jerk response has become, “Now what?” But uncertainty in the world is nothing new. And it definitely is no stranger to business.

As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “Everything changes and nothing stands still.” Resilient people and organizations learn to focus on what they control. These leaders choose to be great even in the face of chaos. But this is not easy.

Tough decisions are rarely obvious. The best leaders understand and own that responsibility. I myself take those challenging decisions seriously. I immerse myself in what is known and explore every possible direction. I seek out those who know more about the subject than I do. This approach gives me comfort. Because even if the final decision is proven wrong, I put in the effort to get it right.

But I know that many leaders do things differently. So, I recently asked folks on LinkedIn to share their experiences. How did their teams make big decisions? The answers varied. Some said somewhat haphazardly, with no one wanting to make the “big call.” Others said that a 100 percent consensus is ideal but ultimately impossible. And there were a surprising amount of people who said that the solution was a team vote.

It got me thinking. Of course you want everyone to have a voice, but can a company really function as a democracy?

Striving towards majority rule is not a quick or easy process. Earlier in my career, I experienced it firsthand and nothing meaningful got accomplished. Alignment meetings turned into hours-long conversations because one or two people were “just not convinced.” Sometimes the talks turned hostile as voting fractions formed. Businesses are not democracies — unless you are on the board, there should be no votes to cast. It only stalls progress in a dynamic work environment.

Over the years, companies have tried different tactics that are aligned with a “democratic approach.” (Including the controversial Holacracy method, which attempts to move authority and decision-making to distributed self-organizing teams, rather than being vested in a management hierarchy.)

But this kind of distribution of power is rarely sustainable. The content platform Medium, for example, abandoned the practice of self-organizing teams after a few years because “it was difficult to coordinate efforts at scale.” That seems like an obvious outcome in retrospect.

Read On….

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