Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Who should makes the decisions?

An interesting thing I witnessed today. A crisis was created that should have never happened, all because someone did not pick up a phone asked some questions and made a decision on the spot. The whole thing lead me to ask the question, "Why didn't he just make the decisions his title and role obviously empowered him to make?"

While without possessing telepathy (wouldn't that be really cool to have? especially as a professional negotiator, or poker player? wow! imagine the money! Anyway I digress) I will never know the reason for this indecision and inaction. Though, based on some past experiences I can venture a very good and probably accurate guess as to why the person experienced this decision/action paralysis.

When I encounter persistent and systemic decision/action paralysis, especially by those who are supposedly empowered. It is ALWAYS caused by a leader/manager/boss/captain who doesn't know how to let go and by extension lacks trust in the very people they spend so much time to hire. In short, an empowerment issue.

When a person doesn't feel empowered and is constantly second guessed, or worse overruled without their understanding and buy in. They will always results in an erosion of their confidence, eventually leading to inability at making even simple decisions. This whole process quickly can become a very vicious cycle. With each overruled decision they become less sure, so they act less promptly, which creates a crisis where the "leader" has to come in and rescue the situation, which makes the leader trust his/her team less, which leads to more second guessing and more paralysis by the team. This cycle are usually only halted through a change in the person's style or the person themselves.

"Why is empowerment so important?" you asks, "What would be so wrong at having to make all the decisions and just have others carry it out?" you say, "This will make sure that I know what's going on at all time, and everything is done to my satisfaction!"

Let's look at our buccaneer ship. If every time a sailor needs to check with the captain to know where to tie a line, or if the first mate needs to check with captain to decide which sail to raise or lower just to slow the ship down. The captain would quickly be bogged down with constant requests for decisions.

While this may work while the ship is just sailing along without a worry in mind, when there are extra time for you the captain to react. But soon as crisis hits, be it storm or trading broadsides with the treasure fleet; you will be quickly overwhelmed with all the little decisions you would need to make. Even if you are able to quickly make all the decisions, the extra time required to wait while you make all those decisions, will make you react ever more slowly to what the other ship is doing. Eventually you're doing everything you can just to stay afloat rather than charging and boarding the other ship to take what is rightfully yours!

By not trusting empower your people, you are losing opportunities that you would otherwise be capitalizing on. And if you encounter enough crisis (after all what is modern business world if not a series of unforeseen crisis?) soon your ship will be crashing on the rocks from a storm or sinking against your competitors. But if you learn to trust and empower your crew, learn to allow them to make mistakes and teach them during the "quiet" times. You will find your investment returned a hundred fold, with quicker decisions and ability to seize opportunities that you would have never even seen.

Bottom line, do you really want to make ALL the decisions and sink, or would you rather just make the important ones and sail to profit? Last thought before you sail off to the sunset,
"If you can't trust your team, who can you trust?"

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