Make sure too many cooks don’t spoil the broth with these tips.
Q: A lot of people have an interest in the work my team does. For some it’s a direct interest, and others are less directly affected but still want to be involved.
The problem is that they are busy people and don’t have a lot of time or energy to give, but then get upset and derail our work if they are not involved in final decisions.
How can I help the people on my team manage these situations? — Geoff, 44, brand manager
A: As you know, nothing will ever get accomplished if you can’t make — and stick with — a decision, so it’s crucial that the decision-making process be focused and the feedback process be respected.
This assumes clearly defined and appropriately inclusive processes. As a team, take time to examine your current approach to involving people.
If you find that different people use different approaches, that may be part of the problem.
Colleagues will not necessarily know what to expect and may make incorrect assumptions about when they’ll be brought into the loop.
If that’s the case, do the hard work of planning an overall engagement process that can be broadly used across the team.
Think of it as guidelines you can use to accommodate a wide range of situations, from relatively minor projects to more major initiatives.
The important thing is that you deliberately think through everyone who should be in the loop, and what their role should be, perhaps using a model like RACI. In this approach, you define roles as responsible, accountable, consulted or informed.
On major projects, you probably will want to have a discussion to make sure your stakeholders agree with the limits of their roles.
In other cases, a written update may be sufficient.
Either way, you then have some standing to push back if they try to revisit decisions or otherwise derail the work.
We all know there are cases where new people jump into work in progress and try to change the direction. In these cases, there are a couple of tactics that can help.
It always helps to start by listening.
Give the person a chance to provide input, keeping an open mind on whether adopting it is feasible and, if so, whether it will lead to a better outcome.
If the changes will cause either delays in delivery or added costs, be crystal clear about these implications.
Say, for example, that someone wants to revisit the decision to have an agency prepare new brand messaging materials; instead, they want to use an internal team to save money.
Saving is great, but determine if you’ll still get the level of expertise you want or the timing you need.
If not, then be ready to escalate. Your team should first escalate to you, and if you’re uncomfortable pushing back, you’ll need to develop that skill ASAP.
If the organization enables unbridled change, then this behavior will continue, so you’ll need to cultivate leadership allies who will have your back.
And if you’ve been thorough in your groundwork, it’ll be easier to keep people from falling into this pattern.