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Episode 29: Making a "No-Win" Decision

Jul 12, 2022

The team is split on a decision we need to make. It’s a no-win situation. How can I approach making an “unpopular” decision?

Before I dive into today’s question, let’s talk about what you could do to avoid or minimize those no-win situations.

YOUR PRO TIP: Talk about how you will decide before you have to decide. For example:

(1) Define what decisions can be made by individuals, the team as a whole and what goes to the leader. Talk through specific examples to see where they fall.

(2) Open up the conversation with a qualifier – If you set the expectation of what you need from them at the beginning of the conversation, you’ll do less clean up work.

When you are about to make the unpopular decision – and you might not even be sure it’s the right decision, here’s a few tools to have ready in your toolbox:

Tool 1: The Meeting Before the Meeting

You probably know which people on your team are going to be unhappy with the decision. Talk to them before you make the announcement to give them a heads up on the direction you are going OR use that conversation to get clear on their concerns so you can be prepared to manage the resistance that will come after the decision.

Tool 2: Empathy and Understanding

Sometimes people don’t need you to agree with them or decide their way – they can move forward if they feel understood. 

  • Restate their position in your own words so they know you get their point
  • Validate ideas that you would consider even if the timing isn’t right
  • Affirm the value you place on their input even if you decide different

Tool 3: Alignment not Agreement

So your third tool is to think of your goal as alignment (moving in the same direction) rather than agreement (they share my stance or opinion on this decision). What is it that they can align to and move forward even if they don’t agree? Try these two questions:

  • I know this isn’t the decision you expected. How can I help you support the decision?
  • What will you do going forward to make this decision work for you?

The biggest mistake in making unpopular decisions is moving too quickly away from them to avoid the backlash. 

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