Executives and fake decisions

We all do it now and then: we have a decision made in mind, but we ask friends and family for their opinion. Yet the whole time we’re confident we’re going to stick with our decision no matter what they say.  We just want them to feel involved.

Professor Roberto aims directly at managers and calls this the “charade of consultation”. It looks like involvement, but it’s just for show:

I continue to be amazed at how many executives get themselves into trouble with their teams by engaging in what my friend and colleague Michael Watkins calls the “charade of consultation.”   The charade occurs when an executive makes a decision, and then goes to his team to “consult” them about the issue.   The executive might even entertain a discussion of multiple options, yet then steer the dialogue toward the alternative he or she preferred from the outset.  Naturally, team members see right through the charade.  Such leadership approaches actually diminish trust and commitment.


Sometimes we’re open to changing our minds, but just aren’t convinced by what we hear. But other times we go in knowing all along, it’s just for show. Perhaps the answer is to express some level of confidence when involving others. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to do X, but I want to hear your argument for Y.” Then opinions can be offered but there’s no deception involved.

11 Responses to “Executives and fake decisions”

  1. sdimeglio

    I find it increasingly hard to find a manager WILLING to make an executive decision without first consulting his team or some group first. I don’t know if it’s a fear of taking ultimate responsibility for a decision and making a mistake or a C.Y.A. thing just in case the decision doesn’t quite work out as hoped. The managers we work with, mostly brand managers, seem to gather input from everyone and anyone and then want us to incorporate every change and address every comment regardless of the effect it will have on the whole. Some are right on but there are a lot of clinkers in there that have a negative impact on the final deliverable both functionally and aesthetically. I do think your solution is a good one though in the case of a manager that is strictly looking for validation after already making a decision.

    1. Scott Berkun

      Steven: Interesting. The opposite is also a problem. Sometimes it can be easier to get promoted if you never quite make a decision yourself.

  2. Sean Crawford

    Integrity is critical. Peter Drucker said that before you promote a person to be an executive ask if you would want your son or daughter to serve under him, given that the executive would be a role model.

    Where I work our CEO has integrity; we get rid of bad apples among the managers as fast as we detect them.

  3. Mike Nitabach

    True. But team members can also get the wrong impression. If they really do agree with the team leader’s default assumption, and thus don’t challenge it, they can erroneously think it was a sham. This happens in a case where, had they challenged the leader, she would have changed her mind.

  4. Jack Dempsey

    “Perhaps the answer is to express some level of confidence when involving others. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to do X, but I want to hear your argument for Y.” Then opinions can be offered but there’s no deception involved.”

    Agree. Continuing with that, if you’re already made it, then say it as well. “I’d like to do X for Y reasons. If anyone disagrees let’s discuss otherwise, we’re going this direction”.

    I definitely do the ‘ask a question when i really should be making a statement’. Thanks for the reminder of yet another thing to work on.

  5. Stephen James

    I sometimes find myself asking for input into the decision from others, but it is less about making the choice and more about researching the positives and negatives of each choice. I might prefer to make the decision myself, especially if it’s a choice that I will be implementing myself. How do you differentiate between objective research and “a show”?

  6. jen

    This exact thing happened at the last ‘managing change’ process we went through at work. I’m sure I’m not alone there.

    1. Scott Berkun

      Interesting. There was always lots of ideas in manager training that never made it out into the field. It’d be interesting for internal training groups to try and measure that – in terms of a) what % of the company even knows about a method b) what % of people try to use it c) what % try and give up vs. continue to use.



  1. […] Executives and fake decisions – July 21, 2011 – You can be faced with this outside the executive suite, too. I find I am often presented with questions by people who have already made up their mind and are only looking foe further support for their position. This makes it very awkward when I don’t agree with them. I also find it a great waste of my time. Avoid doing it, or being on the receiving end of it, at all costs. […]

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