Think about the last time you criticized a leader’s decision. Why did you criticize it? Your criticism likely stems from having only a fraction of the information that went into making the decision. Now, flip this and think about the last decision you made that your team might have criticized. 

People have an easier time trusting and supporting decisions when communication about them is clear and transparent. The use of key words to communicate our decision-making process builds trust and confidence in our ability to lead a tough situation. This clear communication also deepens our relationships and access to information that supports our next round of decision-making.  

Communicate How Decisions are Made

Your team wants to know how you’re making decisions. They also want to know that a decision is even in the works. It’s not always possible to give your team advanced notice of difficult decisions, but it does wonders for building trust when you can and do 

To increase the team’s confidence in your decision-making process, explain the types of decisions you’re making and when you will seek their input. There are three levels of decisions leaders are making in a given week and sometimes day. Share these with your team. 

Decision Levels

Level 1 Decision

  • Leader decided, then plans how to roll out.

Level 2 Decision

  • Leader decided, following consultation with the group.

Level 3 Decision

  • Decision is made by consensus or majority vote.

Communicate about Decision Levels

Tell your team about the three decision levels and how you plan to use these to make decisions and gather their input. Use the Why, What, How communication sequence to clearly describe your decision-making process 


Explain why you’re using the three decision levels to guide your decision-making.  

It’s important for all of us to know how decisions are made. 


Define the three decision levels and that you will communicate the plan for each level.  

For each level, I will communicate the plan and steps for the decision.” 


Reassure that you’ll use these levels to make decisions that impact the organization and you’ll seek team member input for the appropriate level. Identify decision level as decisions are needed and begin communication with the team. 

“We need to make this decision, which will require input from…” (Level 2) 

Communicate Final Decisions

The Why, What, How communication sequence works to build trust when communicating a final decision across the team or organization. Remind the team about your use of the three decision levels. Then, explain why the current decision was at the decision level selected, what the final decision is, what input was included to make the decision, and how the decision will impact the team.  

Most of us begin communicating about decisions at the “Here is the decision…” mark. When we begin our communication at the “Here is how we’re making decisions…” mark, we build trust and support for the decisions we make. How are you communicating about decisions? Would this be a good time to clearly communicate your decision-making process?  


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