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The Dos and Don’ts of Consultation

The most obvious problem with consultation is that people

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The Dos and Don’ts of Consultation The most obvious problem with consultation is that people believe that if you involve them in sharing ideas
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believe that if you involve them in sharing ideas, they get to make

the decision. It’s easy to see how this happens since you ask for

people’s input, you weigh all the options, and you make a deci­

sion. Then two-thirds of those you asked feel violated because

you didn’t do what they told you to do.

Dialogue is a great tool for consultation. It enables you to get

all meaning into the shared pool. But before people start con­

tributing, be sure they understand that the fact that you are con­

sulting with them does not mean that eventually the decision will

be made by consensus.

When should you use consultation? Consult when ( 1 ) many

people will be affected, (2) you can gather information relative­

Iy easily, (3) people care about the decision, and (4) there are

many options, some of them controversial.

When these conditions apply, find a way to touch base with a

lot of people in different positions, locations, and functions

before moving on. Don’t simply call on your friends and buddies.

Also, consider the following:

• J)on ‘, pretend to consult. If you’ve already made up your

mind, don ‘t go through the charade of involving people, only

 

 

1 70 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS

to do what you wanted to do all along. For example, the boss

calls on people and then strikes down ideas that aren’t in line

with what he or she has in mind, while giving subtle clues and

gentle rewards to those who stumble onto the “right idea.”

• Announce what you ‘re doing. When you are only going to

involve a sample of the people who will be affected, let others

know who these people are so they can talk to them if they

like. This is akin to holding neighborhood political meetings.

Not everyone will show up, but people who want to take part

can take part.

• Report your decision. When others are kind enough to share

their opinions (whether you take their advice or not) , they

deserve to know what you decide and why. Don’t try to keep

your decision a secret because you’re afraid you’ll offend peo­

ple. They’ll soon learn of the decision anyway. Better to hear

it from you and not through the grapevine.

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