Are You Always The Decider? That's No Way to Grow
Every day, you and the people who work for you need to make decisions. Many decisions. As the leader, you may take it upon yourself to make the most critical ones, but for the company to thrive you have to be sure that the people who work for you develop this essential skill. One of the best decisions you can make, therefore, is to decide to devote time to helping your team improve their decision-making. Here’s how.
If you have delegated authority to your employees and solicited their input, avoid dictating to them how they should do their jobs or micro-managing their approach to problem solving. Instead, spell out the goals or desired outcomes and then let them decide how to achieve them. When your employees know what is expected--and you give them the autonomy to develop their own solutions--they will become adept at making good decisions, even if that inevitably entails learning from bad ones. As your people learn how to make better decisions, they will build confidence and autonomy.
Be a Good Role Model
The rapid demands of day-to-day operations often require managers to respond on-the-spot, but whenever possible take the time to make informed, intelligent choices. Model for your employees the way in which you arrived at an informed and timely decision by gathering facts and assessing the available data, always focused on what you think is best for the organization. If in doubt, or if the situation permits, make it a group exercise--and don't be afraid to ask for plenty of input. But never lose sight of the fact that what you want to model is the importance of a confident, timely, well-informed decision.
Provide Reality Checks
As your employees learn and become more autonomous, offer timely feedback on the quality of the decisions they've made. Avoid the temptation to wait until you feel feedback is warranted, or to ignore it altogether (easy to do if the decision proved wise). Always be coaching. If the feedback is positive, tell them what went well and why you want to see more of it in the future. If decisions were less than optimum, educate them of the full consequences of their choices and ask them how they might do things differently in the future to avoid the same results.
Foster a Sense of Security
The whole point of encouraging your people to make decisions is to provide them with an environment in which they can learn how to think for themselves, and to take risks when necessary. If you don't do this then your employees will constantly rely on you for direction. Your time will be under even more pressure, and your employees won't be growing in their positions. When your people can make good decisions themselves, you win more time to do other things for your business and your employees become more responsible and more effective.
Reward the Behavior You Want
Get in the habit of praising employees when they make decisions. Be specific about how their efforts fixed a problem and benefitted the organization. If they decided to reach out to a customer with an additional order update, for example, and you feel that that decision strengthened the customer relationship, let them know that they made a very good call. Virtually every act of initiative can be seen as a decision, so be alert to chances to praise good choices. When you do, you'll see many more of them being made.
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While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 75 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter's latest Inc.com columns, and visit him anytime at petereconomy.com.