How to Delegate Decision Making

One of the greatest leadership traits you can develop is removing yourself from the decision making process. Giving your team the authority to make a call independently will help your team act faster and give you more time to focus on the high-priority decisions that do require your attention. Of course, you can’t just expect your team to start making their own decisions: go through this checklist to make sure you’ve set them up for success.

  1. Are they clear on priorities? If an employee isn’t clear on all the nuances of the issue, they won’t be able to give informed input, and they may even make the situation more complicated. Only include them if they understand the strategies, customer expectations, trade offs, and priorities, costs, and other important factors.
  2. Do they know all the options? Employees hit roadblocks if they don’t know what options they have. Depending on the situation, ensuring clarity of options may require training on company policy, customer requirements, processes, or even quick access to experts and reference resources.
  3. Do they know it’s within their realm of responsibility? Sometimes an employee knows exactly how to handle a situation, but they don’t know if they’re allowed to, or they’re afraid they’ll step on someone’s toes. Make sure they and others are aware of how their expertise is needed before asking them to help with the decision.
  4. Have they been getting mixed signals? Too often, a company says one thing and does another. You can’t expect an employee to make an unbiased decision about something when there are contradictions.
  5. Are controversial policies or priorities involved? If you know an employee is opposed to the issue ,or it’s something that can easily get personal, like firing someone or delivering bad news, they may not be the best person to make the decision.
  6. Are they afraid? Is the employee afraid of consequences or afraid of you and other managers? A fearful employee will likely be paralyzed or not want to be involved.
  7. Are they confident? A lack of confidence can leave a qualified employee searching for confirmation when they could be taking action. Make sure they know people are expecting and preparing for them to make a decision before involving them.
  8. Do they have an adequate understanding of risks? Does the employee know what could go wrong? Good, confident decisions require an understanding of the potential impact of those decisions. Often, managers tell employees what to do, but not why. Make sure they know the consequences their choices may have.
  9. Do they have the authority? Have you told the employee they have the authority to make a decision like this one? If not, they won’t understand why they’re being asked to contribute.
  10. Is the decision “above their pay grade”? Employees will not want to take responsibility for something that’s high risk that they aren’t being given adequate compensation for. They won’t brighten up and thank you for being asked to step up to the plate. Make sure they’re up to the task and it’s truly within their scope of expertise.

Takeaway: Avoid unnecessary escalation by choosing the right people to be involved in decisions, and give them the tools and authority to make the call.

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