Overwhelmed? Help Your Team Make More (And Better) Decisions

You’re suffering from decision fatigue, and frustrated with your team. Each day feels like an endless stream of people in and out of your office asking for your input or buy-in. Strategic thinking, creating important strategic relationships, and other leadership responsibilities that give you the most energy seem to constantly fall to the bottom of your list. You rarely find time for these things, and even if you do, you’re too exhausted to exert more brainpower. You simply need your team to take more ownership and operate with greater autonomy. But how do you help them do this effectively? It all comes down to clarity. I’ve helped many leaders navigate this frustrating situation, and I’ve developed a framework to help you empower your team for good. By the time you finish reading, and take the time to answer these questions, you’ll be ready to delegate effectively and get back to the activities you love.

Get clear, and successfully empower your team

In answering the following four questions, it is extremely important to be completely honest with yourself. Before you ask your team to take ownership, you must take ownership of your own opinions, feelings, beliefs, and preferences. The more in-touch with yourself you are, the clearer you can be with your team, and the more powerful results you will get.

Which decisions do you want input on? It is critical to be clear about which decisions you truly want others’ input on, and which you don’t. This way, you will set the stage for your team to spend their energy giving you data that is truly valuable in helping you make decisions, instead of working hard to present opinions, analysis, or suggestions that you ultimately will not use to make your decisions. There will be some decisions you’ll make with no input from others. Not many, but there are some, especially if you have a strong, disruptive vision for your business.

What are you willing to give autonomy over?Decide where you are comfortable drawing the line in giving autonomy to your team. Push yourself to draw that line where you’re actually a little uncomfortable - that’s how you and your team can grow! What is going to make or break your business? Who would you be as a leader if your time and energy was saved for the MOST critical activities? Which decisions are you willing to live with being made slightly differently than you might have made them? Which decisions can result in failure without having a catastrophic outcome for the business? When people have autonomy, they’re able to learn and develop in a way that is very different from when you are involved in all their decisions. They develop confidence and learn to take ownership through experiencing the consequences of their decisions, both good and bad.

What is the desired outcome?You are far more likely to get the results you want when you clearly define the outcome you expect. This gives them a way to make and evaluate their decisions along the way, and decide when to come to you for help in course-correcting. Defining the expected outcome also makes accountability possible. You can have a productive discussion about what is on- or off-track when you have a shared understanding of the end goal. When the desired outcome is unclear, discussions can break down into debate about each individual decision. This erodes your team’s confidence and prevents them from becoming better decision-makers in the future.

What makes a “good decision?”Sometimes, leaders empower others to make decisions because they are interested in a different approach or result. For many leaders, though, a “good decision” is “a decision that I would make.” How can you help your team think more like you, if that’s what you desire? Can you give them some insight into how you make good decisions? You may know your decision-making approach so well that it feels automatic. But if you take some time to reflect, you’ll find that you do have a process, and your team will benefit immensely if you are able to share that process.

Typically, this includes running decisions through filters such as:

  • Does this align with our mission, vision, and values?
  • Will this help us meet our short- or long-term goals?
  • Does this fall within my budget?
  • Is there anyone I need to check in with or get buy-in from before I make this decision?

The importance of each filter depends on the unique culture of each organization. I have seen organizations that will prioritize supporting people above all else. I have seen organizations where adherence to the budget is of the utmost importance. Whatever it is for your organization, make it clear for your team.

Communicate clearly and honestly

Think about how you can share the results of your reflections. The best way to empower your team is to be very clear about what you want them to do, how you want them to do it, and how they will be evaluated. The worst thing you can do is ask your team to make decisions, and then step back in to micro-manage or correct their approach.If you notice things going off track, approach your team with questions, not answers. Help them reflect and self-correct so that they can learn to lead more and more independently, but also in alignment with your goals and objectives. And, be clear when discussing a decision with a team member whether you are suggesting they do things a certain way, or mandating it.

Invest for the long-term

Creating this shift takes time and effort up front. Your “revolving door” may not stop spinning right away. But with your initial investment, you’ll begin to reap rewards soon. You will enjoy your job substantially more, evolve as a leader, and create a culture that will attract top talent to help your organization, and your impact, grow. Did you have an “aha” moment reading this? Sign up for our weekly newsletter ->

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