When I speak with managers, especially senior-level managers, a common complaint I hear is, “How can I get my team to make more decisions on its own?” It’s a good question and one all managers need to spend time answering. If too many decisions — especially on relatively small things — are made by the manager, the manager becomes a bottleneck and teams become less effective. So how do you teach people to make more and better decisions? Here are four ways to do it:
Allow people to make their own decisions
First of all, look in the mirror. You want your people to make more decisions, but do you enable them to do so, or do you make all the decisions and then complain that your people can’t or won’t make decisions for themselves? Be honest. With every interaction you have with your team, try this: Don’t say no too quickly. Don’t give your own, “better” idea. Don’t say “Yeah, but … ” to every idea. Allow your people to make decisions — and allow mistakes to happen. People will begin to learn that they can make decisions and will begin to make smarter decisions. The higher you climb in an organization, the fewer decisions you should be making.
What do you think?
When your team comes to you to ask your opinion, say, “What do you think we should do?” Vary this question, but keep asking until they give an answer.
Don’t offer ideas, offer questions
Help people work through the answer by offering to help them come up with some ideas … by asking questions.
Say, “Yes! Let’s do that”
Sometimes, go with their decision even if you disagree. Don’t go with a decision that would give everyone on the team six months off in the middle of the busy season, but allow other people’s ideas to be implemented. It’s one thing to learn how to make a decision. It’s another to learn that you can make a decision. Helping your people believe that they can make a decision is a big step in teaching people how to make decisions.
If you want people to make more and better decisions, start by allowing them to make their own decisions and stop making them yourself. Ask people what they think and allow mistakes. You need to build confidence in your people that they can make decisions by letting go and encouraging the ideas of others.