Who makes all the decisions in your organization? If it’s you and you alone, you might have a problem. In Episode #68, Chris and Perry discuss the importance of delegating problem-solving and decision-making so that your organization can thrive.
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Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach, and I’m Chris Goede, Vice President with the John Maxwell Company. Welcome, and thank you for joining. As a reminder, if you would like to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership or perhaps bring one of us in for a 5 Levels private workshop for your organization, we would love to do that! Please leave a comment or question for Perry and me on the John Maxwell site. We would love to hear from you. Also, we now offer Learning Guides for every podcast episode which can be found on our website.
Today’s topic was submitted to Perry, and this is a relevant discussion because all of us deal with this. How many times have you been sitting in a meeting and you start thinking, “Who makes the decisions around here?” I can’t wait to dive into this. The person who submitted this topic told us that his business slows down at times because people on his team have to wait for him to make a decision before they can proceed. This is a common problem. The solution is all about moving decision making closer to where the action is and away from “central command.”
I’ve heard leaders say that if the decision-making gets two or three levels away from what is actually going on, oftentimes the decision that’s made is irrelevant to really what’s going on in the field. When the decision gets down to the field, the fields is like, “Okay, Chris has no earthly idea what’s going on out here. That is completely the wrong decision.” As a leader, you are most likely the locus of control for the decisions that are made, day in and day out, in your business. That may or may not be good. You may be the bottleneck, and everyone knows it except for you! So the question is, can you, or should you, move decision-making to others on your team?
This reminded me of how my parents raised me. They were the command central. They were the locus of control. When I got to my teenage years, they started to ask me what I thought and give me some freedoms. One time, I went with some buddies to visit another buddy in another state. My car broke down on the highway, and I didn’t know what to do. I called my dad. He goes, “What do you think you should do? Good luck, and call me when you make a decision. Let me know what you did and how it worked out.” Click. It was sink or swim time!
Ideally, this is not what you should do with your team. You need to have intentionally developed them over time to make wise and well-informed decisions before you throw them to the wolves. By the way, that wasn’t the first time my parents did something like that. They had been working on developing me over time!
So, we’re going to talk today about how to empower your team members that are closest to the decision to make decisions. First, you need to understand that it is a process. You cannot just turn the switch on or off. It’s going to take some trust. It’s going to take accepting some decisions that you wouldn’t have made but aren’t wrong. This is just part of developing your team. You cannot be the center of all decision-making. If you are, you will slow down your organization.
Another question I’ve heard asked is, “Do I just flat-out delegate, or do I need to train them first in order for them to be able to make the decisions?” It’s a little bit of both in my mind. I see a little bit of Level 3 and Level 4 here. That means developing people’s skills and leadership abilities with intentional effort by you, the leader. You may wonder, “Do I want everyone on my team making decisions?” Of course, that would be optimal, but does everyone have the skills and trust to make decision? Probably not. So, you’re going to have to discern who those people are. We have 5 questions to ask yourself to help you make that decision, which we’ll go through shortly.
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I was in a two-hour board meeting yesterday, and we brought in somebody from the field to give a testimony. He made a comment I thought was very interesting. He said about a particular decision, “I don’t take credit for making that decision. I was comfortable knowing that my team was responsible for that decision.” I thought that was admirable. Sometimes our pride gets in the way of delegating decisions. We sometimes fear the decisions that our team members might make. I would encourage you to think about where your pride and fear is when it comes to delegating, so that you can get to a level of comfort that will allow your organization to thrive.
There’s also the obstacle of a lack of trust. We have to trust our team members. They deserve trust unless they make a bad decision. Part of the trouble with this is that, even when others make decisions, you are ultimately still held accountable. This can make it harder to trust others. So, how do you initiate the process of allowing your team members to be responsible while you still remain accountable? Let’s talk a little bit about that process and decision.
We have five questions to keep in mind when you are delegating a decision to a member of your team. If a decision needs to be made that could be made by someone on my team other than me, I have a discussion with them while keeping these five questions in mind. 1) What do you think? 2) What are the options? 3) What are the risks? 4) What are the benefits? 5) What will you do? It goes back to what John always says: “If one of your team members can do something as good as you can 85% of the time, go ahead and let them do it because, over time, they’re going to get better and better. We’ve got to relinquish our control. These five questions give us a great model for that conversation with our team members. So, let’s break this down.
Question one: What do you think? Does this team member have a point of view on the issue in question? Sometimes you’ll be surprised to find you are both on the same page. If not, it may be a good time for you to share your perspective with them. Asking this question will tell you whether or not this person understands the situation and is ready to take on responsibility.
The next question is “What are the options?” If they’ve got an idea for a certain situation, what are the possible outcomes of that idea, and what are other possible ideas? This leads into the next questions: What are the risks, and what are the benefits? These questions open up a myriad of discussion topics. When you get into a discussion like this, you’ll get to see their business acumen. Do they understand the implications of their decisions? You have a longer lens than they do. What can they see with their lens?
The final question is decision time. “What will you do?” As a leader, this is when you ask yourself, “How do I want to handle this at this point? Do I like their way of thinking, their business acumen? How much involvement is this going to require from me? Do I want to delegate this responsibility entirely or find some sort of hybrid solution?
I’d like to add a sixth point to this process: the AR or “action review.” If you let a team member make a decision, it’s a good idea to have an AR with them to go over the good, the bad, and the ugly results of their course of action. This will allow them to grow. You’ll ask questions like, “What made it work?” “What did you think about the process?” “Where do you think you were weak?” “Would you do it differently?” These kinds of great questions can make the whole process more valuable for your team member.To summarize, we essentially talked today about how we, as leaders, cannot be the lid of our organizations. The Law of the Lid is John’s simple principle that we can’t be the lid on our team’s development by being a bottleneck for decisions that we don’t need to be making. I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with Carly Fiorina and John, and we talked about the state of leadership and problems we see there. John said, “Leadership is about values, and there is a leadership deficit.” And then Carly said something very interesting: “Leaders solve problems. That’s what we’re here to do. And problem-solving takes decision-making.”
So, to bring this back to what we’re talking about today, we cannot develop our team to solve problems if we don’t allow them to make decisions. We’ve got to develop our people to be able to solve problems, and to do that, we have to take the reigns off. Don’t micromanage. I know we’re fearful, we want to control everything. Some of us want all the credit. But, at the end of the day, if we’re going to develop a team that’s solving problems on their own, we’ve got to allow them to make decisions. Then, the more comfortable we get with delegating problems and decisions, the more we trust our people, the more we can focus on big-picture concerns, and our organizations can move faster and more efficiently.
I’d just like to remind you that if you want to know more about the 5 Levels of Leadership, you can go to visit website at johnmaxwellcompany.com/podcast and leave a question or comment for us there. We’d love to hear from you. And be sure to check out our Learning Guide, downloadable above! We’re always grateful that you join us on these broadcasts. This has been the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.