Unblock a team decision

Virtual First | Teamwork Kit

You’ve revisited your project brief and scheduled three meetings, but your teammates still see things differently. When a stuck decision is decreasing your team’s impact or morale, it’s time to escalate it—cleanly. Use this workshop to get a leader’s perspective and come unblocked.

60–90 MINS | VIRTUAL TEAM WORKSHOP

Step 1 (pre-work): Ask yourself, “Is it time to escalate?”

Before you meet as a team, take a minute to reflect. Have you tried other ways to solve your problem that don’t involve escalating it (ex: a project checkup, disagree-and-commit discussion, or role-clarification exercise)? If you’re still stuck, move on to step 2.

Step 2: Agree to escalate

In a virtual meeting, email, or chat, invite anyone who’s close to the problem to discuss it with you. Say something like: “We’ve had a handful of meetings and done a project checkup, but we’re still blocked. I’d like to get an outside perspective from [name of manager/leader]. Want to be part of that conversation with me?” When considering who you’ll escalate to, ask yourselves…

    Are they next in the management chain?

    Will they offer a fresh, outside perspective? 

    Do they have expertise in the subject?

    Are they in a position to make a decision?

Step 3: Articulate the problem

Before you ask for support, it’s good to clarify what you’re asking for. Schedule a 40ish-minute virtual meeting with whoever’s involved in the problem. After you’ve kicked things off, pull up the escalation worksheet (below) on your screen. Have your team fill it out together. When you’re done, ask: Does everyone agree on our core problem and decision? When you’ve articulated everything clearly and concisely, move on to step 4.
Escalation worksheet

What decision do you need to make?

Use this worksheet to articulate your problem more clearly. Don’t forget to use plain language that someone outside your team can understand.

Escalation worksheet

Step 4: Ask for advice

Once you’ve decided who you’ll escalate to, invite them to discuss. Sometimes you can handle this asynchronously—other times, you’ll need to schedule a virtual meeting. In your invite, cover the points from your escalation worksheet above. If you need support from a group of people (like a functional leadership team), be sure to clarify up front who’s the decision maker.
Hi [name],

I’m working on [project] with [core people]. We’ve been trying to [decision you need to make] for some time, but we’re blocked on whether or not to [thing you want to do]. We’d love your perspective on the decision so we can [outcome you want to achieve]. Would you be willing to discuss? If you’ve got a strong opinion now, feel free to share asynchronously. We can also schedule a meeting to dive deeper. Here are some reference docs for context.

Thanks, 

[name]

If you end up having a meeting, open by summarizing the problem you’re facing, what it’s blocking, and the decision you need to make. When you’re done, pause and listen. If you don’t get to a decision in the meeting, assign next steps and due dates.

3 easy wins

Build the habit

  • Tomorrow: If a conversation starts going in circles, ask: “What decision do we need to make here?”
  • Next week: Stuck? Ask: “Whose perspective could help us make this decision?”