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Following Other’s Decisions

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In both business and personal life, we often find ourselves required to follow decisions made by other people, who may have more power, greater expertise, or different priorities. Our response to those decisions helps us demonstrate our professionalism and hone our leadership, conflict resolution, and project management skills.

Responding with Professionalism

When you acknowledge decisions made by others, you show more professionalism if you:

  • Focus on what involves you directly rather than questioning the entire decision-making
  • Ask positive and respectful questions; negativity and disrespect may close off the flow of information you need.
  • Ask future-action questions; do not make a past-action attack. There is a vast difference between “why did you make that decision?” (past-action) and “what are the next steps?” (future-action).

Demonstrating the Qualities of a Leader

Your response to another’s decisions also involves a decision—your decision on how you will respond. You empower yourself when you take the following actions that demonstrate leadership:

  • Use active listening: do you understand what the decision means and your role; are you able to summarize what you have heard?
  • Establish next steps: do you need to delegate, rally others to accept the decision, or collect more information?
  • Think strategically: how can you fit this decision fit into your own goals, priorities, and tolerance for risk; how will you handle unforeseen issues?
  • Look for solutions: other people’s decisions may leave you floundering for a way to fulfill your role; by taking on the role of problem solver (rather than complainer), you demonstrate leadership.
  • Communicate: let the decision maker know what you are doing and why, confirming your ability to take ownership of a decision even when it is not your own.

Disagreeing with a Decision: Conflict Resolution

Following other’s decisions is fairly easy when you agree with the decision; but what if you disagree? You may disagree with a decision for any number of reasons, including logistical and moral or because the potential risks are too high for yourself, the company, or the community at large. If you find yourself in conflict with the decision or the decision maker:

  • Clarify your reasons for disagreeing—for example, are you disagreeing with the entire decision or parts of it or the timing or the person who made it or your role?
  • Conduct further research and alternatives; if a decision is necessary, offer alternative ways to respond to the situation that are backed by data.
  • Find a neutral time when you can discuss the decision objectively, share your reasons for disagreeing, and present your alternatives; an objective discussion should avoid ultimatums.
  • Decide on your next steps. You may find after further discussion that you favor the decision or are willing to give it your support despite your misgivings. If you still strenuously object or if you believe the decision to be dangerous, you have to decide what to do.

Taking Action and Following Up: Project Management

Once a decision is made, you are responsible for your role. The following project management actions will help you clarify your responsibility and make sure that your contribution is clear:

  • Establish a structure: create plan for how you will fulfill your role; determine where you can delegate or where you need additional resources.
  • Communicate: no one likes to be ignored, so whether or not you agree with the decision, keep the right people abreast of your progress.
  • Track: tracking is particularly important to determine lessons learned, benefits derived, and obstacles encountered; these will all influence the next decision.
  • Collaborate: you are probably not the only one affected by the decision; the better you collaborate, the more likely the decision will have a positive result for everyone.
  • Show appreciation: you may need help from various sources to fulfill your role; when your role is complete, even if results of the decision are unknown or mixed, thank people for their contribution.

Key Takeaways

Following other's decision requires us to respond with professionalism and demonstrate qualities of a leader. When we disagree with others' decisions; we must resolve conflict and take action.

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