Decision-making is a crucial part of the role of every educational leader. There are times though than we may feel that our colleagues are not happy with the decisions that we make. We may get negative feedback directly or hear something on the grapevine and we may be offended by the reaction, as we feel that we are working so hard to improve our schools and we are trying to involve people in the decision-making process.
What needs to be understood, is that achieving consensus is a very difficult thing to achieve. In fact, there are a number of decisions that have to be made where there will never be full agreement. Some people will prefer things the old way, some people the new, some may have experienced something better in another school. The more we understand this, then we should become more comfortable with our decision-making. With tough decisions, everyone can claim to be an expert but in the end, somebody is charged with making the final decision.
The inability to make tough decisions or have difficult conversations is why so many people do not want to take on the challenges associated with being an educational leader. We need to remind ourselves of this. Many people prefer to sit back and throw rocks at those leaders who are making every effort to step up to the plate and tackle the hard task of improving schools and student outcomes.
It is important, however, to listen to what is being said when going through the decision-making process. There is much to be gained from listening to the different opinions, we need to avoid the situation of ‘Groupthink‘ where we surround ourselves with people who all think the same. Sometimes, it is good to have someone in the room who can think a bit different and is not afraid to air their view and challenge our views.
Leaders need to beware of consultation and how it can be misleading to those involved. So often consultation is confused with the perception that when a leader consults they will take on the views raised. As a result, we hear from staff that they have not been consulted with properly. What they really mean is that their views were not taken on in the final decision. It is beneficial to preface any consultancy with the explanation that feedback will be sought and that all of those view, some of them or, even, none of them may form the final decision. So, long as when decisions are made, each of these scenarios occur from time to time, people will value the consultation process.
There are those times where urgency is required in the decision-making and consultation cannot occur as widely as we would like. As long as leaders are able to explain their thinking and acknowledge mistakes when they happen, this goes a long way to navigating rough seas. There are those other times when you may wish to make a decision alone, have time to process your thoughts without interruption, as regardless of anybody’s input the buck stops with you.
As most of the research on courageous leadership points out – good decisions are not always the most popular ones but are ones made by the best leaders.