I don’t know one business owner, executive, or team lead who is not frustrated when they can’t trust the decisions their people make. They hold off on vacations until a critical project is done, or that project has passed a critical point, or make sure to coordinate their time away with someone they do trust, or spend their vacations plugged in to daily activities and decisions. It’s painful, it’s time consuming, and it’s exhausting.
If you can’t trust the people you lead to make decisions without you, you are on a path of deterioration. You may be already and don’t realize it. You are catching up on and sending emails at midnight because that is the time of day when you can get to tasks that you could not get to during working hours; therefore, you sacrifice sleep because you are also one of the first ones in the door every morning. And with technology, you are right back at it with your phone as soon as you wake up, sending and reading emails as you are pouring that first many cups of coffee for that day. You are desperate to get everything predictable on a path of execution each day because you know the unpredictable issues requiring decisions will pull your time and attention. You feel that if you don’t weigh in with your opinion, decisions will be made that could hurt your business or team. You know that no one will make the decisions you would make. You are on a treadmill that is pointed up hill and you are not sure how to get off. Eventually, the treadmill is going to outlast you, and you will fall.
You need to stop trying to control decisions and learn how to influence them.
You can’t surround yourself with a team or organization of “Mini-Me’s.” You can’t clone yourself. But, you can do two things that, individually, or in unison, can empower your people to make sound decisions without your involvement.
On a battlefield, there is confusion, lack of communication, and moments of disorientation. Waiting for orders vs. making a decision can be a matter of life and death. This is why any Marine I know will make a decision with confidence and no hesitation. They are armed with a very powerful weapon. They are armed with possessing the values that every Marine has, and “Commander’s Intent,” which in military terms is the purpose for the mission. When a unit leader finds himself cut off, isolated, and without communications, he and his Marines remain deadly to the enemy. He can make decisions that move the unit toward accomplishment of “Commander’s Intent.” His decisions are influenced by his leaders, not controlled. This is also what we call a “Force Multiplier.” When you have an entire organization focused in on, and making decisions towards a common purpose, you multiply the odds for success, and ultimately, success itself.
Imagine your organization with decision makers vs. people waiting for orders. Imagine your life as a leader with people making decisions toward a common purpose. The place where change has to happen first is with you. You must be willing to transform from a mindset of control to a mindset of influence. It will not happen overnight. It requires a commitment because you will not be perfect in your transformation. You must have clear vision of what an organization of people making decisions looks like and hold to the image.
You must be willing to trust the people making decisions. There will be mistakes. Use them as learning opportunities and stepping stones to that vision you are holding. Don’t use them as an excuse to back-slide to the control thinking you are trying to move away from. (By the way, your people are not going to trust you at first. They will not believe you mean what you say, because you have a track record of control. This too will be where your commitment will be tested.)
Make the commitment today. You won’t be sorry. Engage people to help you make this transformation; from people within your organization to professionals, find someone to help you hold yourself accountable, like a coach, group coach, or mentor. Get on the path of having an organization of decision makers and leaders. You will be surprised at the momentum you will see.
Leadership Coach & Author
Agoge Leadership Development LLC.
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