A recent Strategy + Business article caused us to think about the fact that sometimes voices are not heard before decisions are made — and there can be significant consequences because of that fact.

In today’s fast paced business world, generating new ideas and making decisions on which of those ideas to implement is important. But sometimes our goal of moving fast means that we use a meeting to make a decision or select an idea, but don’t ensure that everyone in the room has had the opportunity to provide their input. In such cases, significant setbacks are possible in implementation because opposing ideas weren’t surfaced earlier.

So how can we ensure the pace of idea selection and decision-making keeps up with the needs of business? And how do we make sure that everyone’s input is heard before coming to a final decision?

A new approach to the show of hands

One simple idea is to take 15-20 minutes to truly get a pulse of an idea and assess whether or not it will pose any challenges. The leader in this situation needs to set the stage to say that they want everyone’s initial reaction to the idea or decision by voting one of five ways. Everyone can simply raise their hand with an appropriate number of fingers shown to reflect their vote as follows:

  • All five fingers = “Love the Idea”
  • Four fingers (thumb hidden) = “Like the Idea”
  • Three fingers (index finger and thumb hidden) = “I can Live with the Idea”
  • Two fingers (middle/index fingers and thumb hidden) = “Leery of the Idea”
  • One finger (pinkie finger only shown) = “Loathe the Idea”


Reasons Why This Approach Is Useful:

#1 – It puts everyone’s opinion on the table at the same time.

By taking an initial pulse and having everyone vote at the same time, it will give those voices that might not be heard a chance to weigh in – especially if they tend to succumb to louder and more passionate voices with different opinions. The forced vote shows the leader a broad spectrum of voices at the same time — and where there might be differences. Differences can be a great thing in this setting! Drilling into why someone is “Leery of an Idea” for example, can be invaluable to uncovering an impact from the idea that may not have been obvious. It can also provide suggestions for subtle changes that could be made to the original idea that might alleviate, or at least lesson, that person’s concerns.

#2 – It shows right away if the idea has strong opposition.

Sometimes only one or two people might like an idea — but if their voices are strong, they might pass the idea through without pushback.

The simple voting method provides the leader with a scenario like the following: Out of 11 people voting, 3 people give the idea a “2” rating and 5 people give the idea a “3” rating. That’s not a strong endorsement! This quick pulse check could allow the leader to drill into the challenges with the idea, and give the team an opportunity to course correct to come up with a stronger idea that would garner more support.

#3 – It forces the naysayers to speak up with why they aren’t on board.

Sometimes, people are hesitant to bring up conflicting opinions when talking about an idea. And sometimes people just want to avoid the thoughts of the people who tend not to like any ideas. This simple voting method addresses both concerns. For those people that don’t like an idea, it is not enough just to say you don’t like it. You need to say why you don’t like it. And that gives the leader an opportunity to probe with those naysayers to see what would make them like the idea better (how it can be changed). With good safe discussion and probing, this conflict discussion can be very constructive — and reduces destructive conflict from people who didn’t get the opportunity to talk about their opposition with a more traditional method of discussion.

So the next time you have a new idea or decision you need to make with a group, try this voting pulse method. It will no doubt uncover more discussion and quick feedback to see if you are heading down the right decision path.

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