How to Empower Team Decision Making

How to Empower Team Decision Making
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Is Your Team Seemingly Unable to Make Decisions without You?
If you are a manager who is constantly besieged by questions and pleas for help or advice from your direct reports, we feel your pain.  While leaders want their teams to know that they can count on them when they need help, high performing teams feel empowered to act without always having to check in. Here is how to empower team decision making.

What Needs to Change to Empower Team Decision Making
Beyond establishing a culture of practicing what we call attention management, you need to coach and empower your team to take on more decisions. It is estimated that decision making takes up to 70% of a manager’s time. This is not practical long term. What needs to change?

  1. Distinguish Between Being Available and Being Accessible to Your Team
    In our customized new manager training, new people leaders learn that their success is dependent upon the success of their team.  They learn that their job as a manager is to be readily accessible, but not always available. 

    Most managers must be a player-coach responsible for getting their own project work done in combination with setting the team’s direction and leading the team.  That requires a certain amount of time to reflect upon how things are going and to plan for future success. You need your team to understand that you are there for them (accessible) when it’s urgent/important; but that you are not available at all times for unnecessary interruptions.

    Define what times you are “open for business” and stick to it. Train your team to respect your “office hours” and encourage them to set aside their own time to focus without distractions. Perhaps they can temporarily shut down email, silence their phone, and wave away chatty visitors.
  2. Create Team Clarity
    Our organizational alignment research found that strategic team clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing teams.  To best empower your team, create a clear line of sight between their work and the priorities of the business, the team, and their peers.  You will know you are on the right track when goals, roles, success metrics, team norms, and interdependencies are clear, meaningful, and doable.

    When it comes to team empowerment, ambiguity is your enemy.  Team clarity creates the necessary context for people to frame and make important decisions without always having to ask questions or escalate concerns.
  3. Clearly Delegate
    First, you must decide which decisions can be delegated and to whom. Set some boundaries for your team members and ensure they clearly understand the responsibilities of their role and the kinds of decisions they can (and should) make on their own. Clarify the decision-making role of each of their teammates and refine who is accountable for each step along the way.

    For example, one client recently decided that front-line managers had authority to make decisions that cost $50,000 or less as long as it was in their budget.
  4. Encourage Problem Solving and Build Decision Making Capabilities
    To truly empower your staff to solve problems on their own and to make more decisions with confidence, you will need to relinquish some of your control and build their decision making skills.

    They may need some decision making training to build the competence and confidence to make better decisions that are well defined, made efficiently, and communicated in a way that creates lasting commitment.
  5. Allow for Mistakes
    Know that there will always be occasional mistakes as people learn, try, and stretch themselves. Each misstep should be seen as a learning opportunity, not a time for censure. The objective is to promote growth and more self-sufficiency, and this goal can only be met with a culture of open communication, continuous learning, and mutual trust.

The Bottom Line
High performing people leaders take charge of their own time and empower their team to make appropriate decisions on their own. This increases decision-making speed, employee engagement, and team cohesiveness.

To learn more about how to empower team decision making, download 3 Steps to Set Your Team Up to Make Better Decisions

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