In a world of constant change where the status quo is a myth, making decisions are part of the lifeblood of any successful organization. Leaders who try to make all those decisions will be pressed, stressed, and likely behind. Whether thinking about the short-term need for decisions to be made or the long-term implications for empowering team members, leaders must distribute decision making to the team. The question is how to do it.
Here is a seven-step process to distribute decision making to your team.
- Commit to it. First you must decide that you want and need to distribute decision making. Until you do that, you won’t be successful or consistent in letting go of decisions you used to make yourself.
- Set clear expectations. If you have been making all the decisions, you need to let the entire team and/or the affected individuals know that you are changing your approach. Discuss what decisions you are delegating and why you are making this change. Ultimately they will believe in your actions, but talking about your expectations of when and what types of decisions you want them to make is a critical step to make the new approach clear to them – and to hold you accountable for making the change.
- Create criteria. If you are worried about the quality of the decisions others might make, talk about the relative importance of different criteria. Discuss which factors are most important. As an example, how do you want people to weigh cost, quality, customer experience, and other factors? Doing this will raise the confidence of others in the decisions they make and will raise your confidence that you will feel good about the decisions they make.
- Share information. Often as the leader or manager, you have information to help you make decisions that might not (yet) be available to everyone. If you want to distribute decision making successfully, make sure people have access to the relevant information to help them make informed and successful decisions.
- Encourage the shift. Remember the importance of encouragement! You have committed to changing your habits on decision making. One of the best long-term outcomes of that choice is raising people’s confidence and competence in making decisions. But until they are sure you mean it, and until they have been making organizational decisions successfully, they will need encouragement to change their habits too. Your encouragement will help them more than you may realize.
- Provide help. Just because you are now entrusting decisions to others doesn’t mean they must go it alone. Encourage dialogue and input across the team. Provide input yourself too – just make sure that your input doesn’t become a proxy for the decision. Helping shouldn’t be the same as deciding.
- Support their decisions. Not every decision you have made has been perfect, and neither will theirs. The good news is that few things in life or at work are perfect anyway! Support the decisions people make. Revisionist history won’t serve anyone. If you second guess every (or most) decisions, it won’t be long until you are making them all yourself again.
As a leader you can decide to make all the decisions, or you can decide to share decision making with others. The long-term benefits for both you and the team of making that decision far outweigh the risks of a decision that is a bit off in the short term. When you distribute decision making you gain team growth, confidence and commitment – which will always be a good decision in the long run.
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