Do you want your group to make better decisions? Try a stepladder!

Here is a scenario which has come up in discussions with several of my coaching clients over the years: do you recognise it?

You are in a meeting where it seems that the same people contribute all the time. You value their contribution and you know you will leave the meeting with a decision having been made. However, your experience outside such meetings means that you know that the others have something to offer too. Perhaps your issue is that your group knows each other so well that they have even started to think alike!

How can you make sure that everybody’s opinions can be heard? Can you avoid groupthink?

Is there a way of doing both of these and still reaching a decision?

I think there is: the Stepladder Technique. Imagine you are creating a stepladder, rung by rung, and at the top is your decision.

Rung one:

Present the issue to the team. Stick to the facts – don’t offer your own opinions. Inform the team that they will be given time to consider the issue as individuals before a decision is made as a group.

Rung two:

Invite two people to form an initial team – this could be an opportunity for you to involve any more reticent team members at an early stage of the process. These two people discuss the issue amongst themselves. No decision is made.

Rung three:

Invite a third team member to join the group. The third member presents his/her thoughts before hearing from the original two. All three members then have a group discussion. No decision is made.

Rung four:

One by one, add a new member to the group who presents his/her thoughts first, thus remaining uninfluenced by other opinions in the group. After each addition, allow time for group discussion before moving on. Repeat until all members of the group have aired their views.

Rung five:

Having heard everyone’s ideas, it’s time to take a decision: a decision based on a wide range of thoughts from everyone present rather than on the opinions of the most vocal members or a safe/lazy decision based on groupthink.

Whether you’re in an office, a classroom, or on a committee, the Stepladder Technique can help your group make a more effective decision.

Today’s pebble for your thoughts: can you think of a situation where the Stepladder Technique could help?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’re ready to transform your work or your life, why not email me to see how we can work together?


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