Tuesday, April 28, 2009


There is an article in the WSJ How Group Decisions End Up Wrong Footed that is worth reading. Although the article is focused on committees selecting money managers, it made me think of the way committees in general operate and the leadership required to make sure they operate effectively.

There is a quote in the article about the fact that the best groups operate better than their best individual member and the worst groups operate worse than the worst member. The author of the article asserts that often committees fall into too much conformity or polarize into warring camps.

In my opinion, leadership skills are particularly important on committees since the people on the committee are not direct reports to the head of the committee. There are a few key elements to the success of a committee:
  • The leadership skills of the head of the committee
  • The skills and leadership strengths of the committee members
  • The clarity of the goal of the group and the roles of each member
  • The processes the group will utilize to gather facts and facilitate discussion
While I believe all these elements need to be in place for the committee to operate effectively, often it is the action or inaction of the team members that make the group ineffective. In Mike's post yesterday entitled Breathing and Living Leadership Everyday, he discussed that we should all think, act and speak as leaders everyday in everything we do.

However, we have all seen it happen when people leave their leadership skills at the door when they get on a committee. Sometimes I hear people say they did that to respect the leader of the group. Instead, I would submit that a good team member is a good leader. You can be respectful of the team leader's authority while still fulfilling your role on the team. During the group discussion, speak up and say what you really believe. If you agree, great. But if you do not agree, demonstrate leadership and have the courage to politely but forcefully make your case.

In addition, the leader of the committee needs to be a good facilitator so that all points of view are heard and that people feel free to disagree without allowing it to become a dysfunctional argument.

So the next time you are the leader of a committee, make sure you have all the elements of success in place. The next time you are on a committee make sure you remain a strong leader as well as a good team member.
Until Next Time,

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