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Giving a Leader Input

Feedback is given in response to actions taken. Input advises on actions being contemplated.

Leaders do not need to solicit widespread input on every decision they make. But it is respectful and useful to solicit input from those who have responsibilities in the area that the decision will impact. If followers are to be responsible for certain spheres of activity, they have the right to be consulted on decisions related to that activity. In some cases, it may be helpful or necessary to ask for explicit agreements on this point when accepting a position.

In other cases, followers may find themselves in situations where they were not appropriately consulted and then need to negotiate this point with the leader. In such a case, it is usually more important to negotiate the principle for future action, rather than to attempt reversing a decision already taken. Ideally, the principle established will not simply be a bilateral agreement between the leader and follower, but a commitment to include all key players who will be impacted by a decision. The rules for giving effective feedback clearly apply to this conversation.

Assuming that a follower has skillfully made the case for prior consultation and the leader has agreed, followers can reinforce this commitment:

“That’s an extremely interesting idea. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to raise some concerns I have.”

“That’s an interesting idea that will affect several divisions. I suggest that we explore it at the staff meeting.”

“You’re raising an important point. Let me solicit some other perspectives to make sure we’re not looking at this too narrowly, and then get back to you.”

“That sounds promising, but I’m disappointed you acted unilaterally when we’ve agreed that strategy changes will be reviewed at the senior management meeting.”

“We’ve got a problem. If you keep acting outside the process we’ve established, I and the other members of the team can’t give you the creative ideas you want.”

It is up to followers to be clear about the value they place on consultation and participation. Leaders are politically shrewd. When their people feel strongly about something, they usually won’t ignore it.