I’ve been on many corporate committees. They generally evolve because companies want to make sure they get the input and perspective of several constituencies within the company. The problem is that they also become mired in debate, inaction and a lack of leadership.

If you develop committees, you can’t give up leadership. I believe every committee is really an advisory group or most of them become ongoing debate with no end. I was brought in on one committee that had been floundering around a technology solution for over a year. Everyone on the committee was scared to move forward because one or two people basically philibustered the group in each meeting.

As the new leader of the committee, I just pushed forward with what the core issue was – “solve this,” I said, “and we will continue to solve bigger issues around this technology.”

The leader has to take responsibility. It’s easy to hide in a committee and then, if something goes wrong, you can point the finger at the committee – “wasn’t my decision” – is a famous line. I’ve taken responsibility, and have had small failures and successes, but they are based on my decision with advice from the committee. If I let the committee decide for me, I’d still get the blame if something went wrong, so I might as well accept the role of decision maker.

So, if you join a committee, make sure you know what your role is and that someone is the ultimate decision maker; otherwise you are likely in for a long tenure with little results.

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