For many years, the concept of finding a mentor, someone who can coach you through tough issues or someone to bounce ideas off of (Lazarus, 2012), has been discussed by leaders. This is thought of as an informal relationship. It is usually thought that the mentor has to be someone who has more experience. This assumption makes locating good mentors difficult.
A related concept currently in use is team decision making. Team decision making promises better decisions from a larger pool of opinions (Gonzales et al., 2017). Typically, a consensus is required from the team before moving forward. This method leads to paralysis as the size of the team increases, or decisions being made out of popularity rather than correctness.
I would recommend that you formalize the mentor relationship, and expand the concept. I propose the business council. Using the concept of teams, the council provides a platform for leaders to improve decisions. This is the first principle of a business council, diversity of experience. On a multidisciplinary project team, it may be important to comprise this council of key business and technical experts. For example, we could look at a company’s C-suite. The C-suite is comprised of heads of key functions that bring different functional views of the company to the table. A well-functioning C-suite could be an example of a business council. When an issue arises, those council members that can add to the discussion are called together to openly discuss the issue.
The second principle is that the council should build trust. As with mentor selection, the members of the council should build trust, trust in the focus of the team goal, trust that personal ambitions will not interfere. Discussions conducted by the council should focus on decisions that lead to accomplishing the team’s goal. To build trust, each council member should be able to voice their opinions without retribution. However, all opinions should be challenged. Trust can only be built when all council members feel free to communicate their ideas.
The third principle of a business council is to keep the council small. Having a single mentor to serve on the council may be appropriate for small organizations. For larger organizations, the council should not exceed fifteen people. The size should be dictated not by the size of the organization in the number of employees, but by the complexity of the organization, representing key functional points of view. With a well-diversified council, the leader can select a subset of the members to focus the discussion.
The fourth principle is that the leader is still the decision-maker. The council members provide different points of view by evaluating the situation from their area of expertise. The business council discussions are completely open to all opinions. However, when the decision is made, all support the leader’s decision.
Business councils, when properly run, provide the leader with broad-based information and opinions to improve decisions, build trust and support. The open discussion stimulates better ideas. The trust built during the discussion helps to build ownership and support. Business councils can provide leaders with the support that is needed in organizations today.
Gonzales, J., Mishra, S., & Camp II, R. D. (2017). For the win: risk-sensitive decision-making in teams. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 30(2), 462-472. doi:10.1002/bdm.1965
Lazarus, A. (2012). Achieving Success Through Mentors. Physician Executive, 38(1), 42-46. Retrieved from http://www.acpe.org
Dr. Glen Jones, Ph.D., PMP, is the president of GMJ Leadership. He is an accomplished leader with over 26 years of experience in the development and management of large, complex international projects within the energy industry. Glen is currently a leadership coach and project management consultant performing project management audits, project audits, and 360 personnel assessments. His education culminated with his Ph.D. in project management from Northcentral University. Glen writes about strategy and governance.