In a recent Twitter chat, the organizer asked participants to discuss how they have worked to master interpersonal skills. When it came time to discuss strengths and weaknesses, one person mentioned decision-making and the desire to make everyone happy. This is an issue that would ring true with many people. While many would think negotiation skills are the solution to this problem, I encourage you to go one step further and think about acquiring dispute resolution skills as well. Why? In my case, I learned to become an effective advocate as a negotiator, but a dispute resolution course helped me effectively facilitate decision-making among project partners. So for those of you involved in projects with multiple stakeholders, here are four tips to help you be more effective in your decision facilitation:
1. No meeting of the minds, no agreement. Define key terms so partners are on the same page. This can help you avoid issues that might disrupt or cancel a project.
2. Let go of want and get what you need. Encourage participants to privately list what they want to get from the work. Then have each select 3-4 items from the list that they truly need and prioritize them. Focusing on these needs but being aware of the partners’ wants can help you be proactive in planning future communication.
3. Be impartial. If one of your partners believes that you are favoring one over the other, you risk the possibility of alienating him/her. Try to do your best to emphasize procedural fairness during the process.
4. Identify where the decision-making power resides. If the project involves partners from different organizations, try to have a decision maker represent each partner in the project. Why? You don’t want to have representatives agree to a key part of the project and have the momentum disrupted because someone didn’t have the authority to make that decision.
You can gain experience facilitating decision-making by volunteering to lead. Contact your local EPIP chapter to find out how.
Written by Sophia Guevara