Posted January 6, 2012 by Samuel Matz 

Being Right

I recently attended a day of training on some cultural and social competencies. Attendees included student government, the various resources, and facilitating staff. We covered quite a few things, but one specific event stood out for me. The exercise began with us being split into pairs, each pair receiving a card describing some aspect of current human existence. Our task was to rank how socially acceptable each issue was (i.e., how positively or negatively that aspect was perceived by general society).

The actual decisions we made were sometimes expected and sometimes surprising, but these different opinions didn’t stand out to me as much as the way we made those decisions. We made our choice on the issue cards we received in the pairs first, and then presented our choices to the larger group by placing them on the ground in order. No one was in charge in each pair, so the two people arrived at either a compromise or agreement.

Once we placed the cards, we passionately discussed our choices with the larger group. Rather than individuals fighting it out for the sake of their choices, though, we were teams of leaders making a group decision. The opinion of the teams ended up being the final yardstick. Our original paired decisions were allowed to stand, despite the larger group discussion. This final part of it is what resonated with me. Not only did it imitate actual decision-making (other leaders will ask for my opinion, not my permission), but it reminded me that other leaders will makes choices I don’t necessarily support.

The question then becomes "What if?" What if I might be tempted to say, "They’re wrong?" This may very well be true, whether it’s me saying it as a newer leader or someone saying it to me as an experienced leader. Mistakes can happen, and someone has to be responsible. With group decision-making, it may mean that everyone takes ownership.

This is acceptable. A leader’s role isn’t to control the choices other leaders make; it’s to work with my team to make appropriate decisions in our sphere. Over the course of this academic year that lesson has already proved a potent one, and it is one I’ll return to time and again.

How does decision-making work where you are? Just as importantly, how do you think it should work?

Samuel Matz

Samuel Matz is the Student at Portland Community College–Rock Creek.

Samuel Matz is majoring in biomedical science. His current leadership position at Portland Community College–Rock Creek is director of legislative affairs for Associated Students. Samuel enjoys the opportunity to be around other student leaders.


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