Push decision-making down to the lowest possible level. This advice has had enormous impact on my leadership skills. When I entered my first serious management role, my mentor frequently repeated this sentiment. The simple principle is to encourage your direct reports to take responsibility and make decisions, which in turn becomes a valuable learning experience for all.
The individual who makes the decision is the one who will work the hardest to achieve the result and find ways to overcome obstacles along the way. Your big leadership challenge is having the patience and tenacity to stand back, watch, listen and gently coach as your people tackle new tasks.
A good rule of thumb is to never make a decision that could be just as easily be made by one of your people. By pushing responsibility down the ladder good leaders help team members become more confident. You will be amazed by how your people take on responsibility and grow in competence and confidence. The process benefits you, too, affording more time to focus on other important issues.
“Every team member has the authority to do whatever it takes.”
Tractor Supply posts this statement in the stores so managers and salespeople know that they can do whatever it takes to satisfy every customer. The company green lights people to do whatever it takes to retain a customer — and stands behind these decisions. The idea is that no temporary issue should take precedent over the lifetime value of a customer, which could be tens of thousands of dollars. Everyone is empowered to do the right thing.
Leadership is empowering your people to take reasonable risks and make logical decisions. And the team that fully understands the organization’s mission, vision and values executes best. Put these topics high on your agenda so that no one on your team has any misunderstanding about your organization — its values, customers and standards.
When you communicate clearly and frequently your team will know the boundaries and can do what is best for the organization. But it’s important to watch out for these potential pitfalls:
- The overconfident person who naturally pushes boundaries and therefore requires reasonable, regular goalposts and check-ins.
- The under-qualified person who could take you down an unforeseen path if you don’t fully define the general plan up front.
- The persuasive person who can quickly convince others that his or her way is in fact the most effective, but may not be most effective for the company as a whole.
In other words, be careful to empower the right people to undertake the right tasks. Guide discussions about decision-making without taking the reins. Ultimately, you will gain a whole lot more by allowing your people to make the call.
Leaders gain great respect and recognition for knowing how to empower their team. It’s a skill — and anyone can learn it.
published by the Nashville Business Journal