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What insight can you provide around Questions 32 and 33 of the Style Under Stress assessment (concerning crucial conversations and decision making)?

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Emily Hoffman

Emily Hoffman is a Master Trainer and Senior Director of Client Training and Employee Development at VitalSmarts.

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Q In the Style Under Stress assessment, question 32: “I find myself in situations where people get their feelings hurt because they thought they would have more of a say in final decisions than they end up having” and question 33: “I get frustrated sometimes at how long it takes some groups to make decisions because too many people are involved” have a “correct” answer of False. I don’t understand why. With both questions, that answer does make sense if you indeed have any power to choose the decision making approach, but in my industry, we are often told how to do things and there is no choice. That being said, people do get their feelings hurt and the wrong people can participate in the decision making process, so it seems as if True would be a valid answer depending upon the situation. What insight can you provide about the rationale for the best response to be False?

A This is a great question. I’ll give you my two cents and then we can see what additional responses we get from other trainers on the blog.

First, I don’t usually consider the answers to the Style Under Stress as correct or incorrect. These are simply measures of tendency. With the Crucial Skills scores, the score can point you to an area where you may be weaker, or an area where you may want to pay extra attention. And I would probably steer clear in the training of using the terms right and wrong.

Now, let’s look at each of the questions in turn. Question #32 – anyone in the group can speak up and clarify how the decision is being made, not just the decision-maker. Let’s say there are some people on my team who are frustrated because they think they will have a say in the decision and then don’t. For example, imagine us in a meeting where we are discussing an idea. Justin has lots of great input and is under the impression that we will be making a consensus decision. In the past, he has been frustrated when he thought his ideas were going to be a part of the decision and then weren’t. Now, here is what happens: Steve, another team member, speaks up and says, “Hey Emily, we are happy to give our ideas. And, I’m curious—is this a consult decision or a consensus decision?” At that point, I clarify that it is a consult decision. Now, Justin may be a little frustrated that he doesn’t get to be a part of a consensus decision, but it is not because he thought he would have a say and then didn’t. That was made clear. The key to understanding question 32 is that the problem is not “People are frustrated because they want to be part of a decision that they are not a part of.” The problem is “People are frustrated because they think they are part of the decision-making process when they really aren’t.” This gets to the skill of clarifying up front what type of decision-making process is being used, and anyone in the room can do that.

Question 33 is a little tougher, and I can really see your point here. What we are trying to get at is whether this issue is addressed. When decisions are taking too long because too many people are involved, do I bring it up or suffer in silence? Do I go to the meeting organizer and share my concerns, or just live with my frustration?

I hope some of these thoughts help.

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Emily Hoffman

Emily has consulted and trained with non profit, start-up ventures, and major national corporations such as Eli Lily and The Chicago Board of Trade. Additionally, Emily has taught finance courses at Brigham Young University and trained corporate clients in Crucial Conversations. read more