Helping teams be more decisive

The leader had a participative style.

The team were able people willing to speak up and contribute ideas. But they seemed to be stuck in a pattern of long discussions without reaching agreement on a course of action.

The leader asked red10 to help. By observing them in action, the coach saw that the team needed to develop skills in the use of four “Power Language” phrases:

  • I SUPPORT X and we can BUILD on it with Y
  • Let’s FIST-5 on XY

“I propose X”

The first step was to get the team into the habit of making proposals. Individuals were encouraged to make a simple statement “I propose…” followed by a suggested way forward that was actionable.

This is one of the communicating behaviours that Neil Rackham’s research has shown to be typical of highly effective managers. It is a “push” behaviour – meaning that it is directed outward from the speaker, rather than focused on the needs and views of others.

“I support X and suggest we BUILD on it by doing Y too”

A short period of time was allowed for others to support the proposal, or even to build on it.

These are also effective communicating behaviours, this time in “pull” mode, because they are focused on understanding the original speaker, rather than each individual’s own opinions.

“Let’s FIST-5 on XY”

The team were then moved on to a “fist five”.

Each team member indicates their degree of support for the proposal using their hand – five fingers in the air meant fully support, a fist meant don’t support at all. A fully supported proposal became a commitment to action.


If some of the team did not support the proposal, they were encouraged to explain why, and to move quickly on to a counter proposal – which also needed to be actionable.

A repeat of “fist five” was often enough to unstick the team and move them from endless discussion to decision and action.

Dramatically More Decisive

These simple changes to the way the team behaved in meetings had a dramatic impact on their effectiveness.

Sometimes it takes a team coach to take the helicopter view when the team are too close to see it, suggesting new patterns that stick.

If you think a red10 coach might be able to help your team, please get in touch.

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