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  • Writer's pictureTara Rethore

Does your team behave like a holiday-gone-wrong movie?

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

'Tis the season for communal re-viewings of "holiday gone wrong" movies. And for the realization that, sometimes, the dysfunctional behaviors on the screen are similar to ones we've seen in our workplaces.

Business dysfunction is a regular guest in business: permeating meetings, impeding decisions, and disrupting strategy.

Three steps to eliminate common dysfunctions that prevent good strategy execution:


1. Go beyond ‘buy-in’.

Reflect on your week. How many times have you heard about or referred to ‘buy-in’? The term has become ubiquitous in our conference rooms and around the water cooler – so much so, in fact, that it’s lost much of its meaning. Yet obtaining buy-in – a commitment to or support for achieving a shared goal – is truly important in advancing an initiative or idea. It’s also critical to executing strategy.


In practice, however, buy-in is confused and overused. Why? Leaders fail to recognize that there are two types of buy-in: buy-in for acceptance and buy-in for approval. Most of us assume we get to approve (or disprove) the idea. This is simply not true. In reality, people are usually asked to accept and thus, support the path forward. They don’t get to approve. Yet that’s rarely said out loud. Furthermore, acceptance doesn’t require that they like the concept; it just means they understand and agree to move forward. Next time you share a decision or action or specify direction, go beyond buy-in:

Tell the audience explicitly what you need from them: buy-in for acceptance or for approval.
2. Specify decision rights.

Accountability and decision-making are two huge enablers of successful strategy execution. Most know this; yet few do this well. Just search for ‘decision making process’; Bing surfaces +29MM results!


At the outset of every engagement or meeting with the executives I advise, we first agree on and use a common decision framework. Moreover, we specify explicitly which decision model will be used to take each critical decision. Sometimes, the group decides by consensus; at other times, the boss takes an autonomous (or ‘executive’) decision.

Use a common decision framework and be explicit about each person’s role in the decision – at the outset.

Leaders who specify decision rights from the start achieve the desired outcomes more effectively. Why? Knowing one's role in taking the decision allows each person to contribute appropriately. That clarity drives transparent decisions. Bonus: it promotes buy-in for acceptance because they understand.


3. Think ‘outcomes’.

Have you ever been invited to a meeting without a clue as to why? Perhaps your agenda merely lists discussion topics? Or, you leave the meeting wondering what was actually achieved? No one enjoys those situations! And they drain productivity. Instead, think outcomes.

Define and articulate what you expect to learn, do, or decide as a result of the meeting.

The outcomes then become the basis for your agenda – and thus, why each person is invited. Take it a step further: indicate whether you are sharing information (perhaps resulting in shared understanding) or processing information (to shape, support or drive a decision or action).


Complete the trifecta by stating how you’ll take the decision for each topic. Now, not only does each person know why they're invited, each is also thinking about the implications of the conversation and meeting for their area. Thinking and expressing desired outcomes in advance enhances buy-in, improves the quality of the conversation, and drives action – before, during, and after the meeting.


This year, resolve to avoid a ‘holiday-gone-wrong’ situation in your business. Choose just one of these tips and apply it in your own work, with your own teams and projects. In that way, you take strategy off the page and into action.

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