“Let’s take meetings,” Pablo suggested. “Lots of managers AND their teams work hard to gain concensus, avoid conflict, at times even attempt to make decisions democratically.”
“I have seen that,” I said.
“And that manager of the team, also has a manager, let’s call that role, the manager-once-removed, the manager’s manager,” Pablo described the setup. “If the team and their manager engage in democratic decision making and make a bone-headed decision, who does the manager-once-removed hold accountable?”
“Well, I assume it would be the whole team, manager included,” I observed.
“Who is the manager-once-removed going to call into the office to discuss this bone-headed decision, the whole team? If we are going to call in the whole team, what do we need the manager for?”
“I’m listening,” I said.
“And, what of the dynamics in the decision meeting? If the decision is to be democratic, then team members will lobby their own agendas, sometimes hidden politics emerge to gain support from other members, perhaps a little arm-twisting. The manager almost becomes a bystander. And, yet, at the end of the day, it is the manager called to account for the bone-headed decision.”
“And?” I asked.
“It is only when the manager becomes accountable for the decision, that we can make headway,” Pablo described. “Team members now show up to provide feedback and support to the manager, who will make and be accountable for the decision. The team will play devil’s advocate, argue this position or that position, in short, create conflict. The point of the meeting is not to manage conflict, but create it, for the benefit of the decision. Don’t manage conflict, manage agreement.”
“And, the benefit?”
“A well argued decision,” Pablo said. “This only happens when we understand the working relationship between the team and the manager, with the manager accountable for the output of the team.”