The Decisions You Shouldn’t Make

…Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Leaders tend to be busy people.  A corollary is that leaders tend to be bottlenecks in most organizations.  Good leaders learn to delegate – not just to get the tasks done, but because they see delegation as a tool for developing people.

Decision making bottleneck
(c) Can Stock Photo / jgroup

So let’s say you’ve mastered delegating tasks and are seeing people rise up to do things that you used to think could only be done by you.  Much to your surprise, some have proven better at those tasks than you ever were.  You’re no longer a bottleneck, right?

Chances are – and kudos to you if this isn’t true – there are still a lot of people twiddling their thumbs, waiting for you.  Not waiting for you to do something, just waiting for you to decide something.

Ask yourself whether you’ve delegated tasks or responsibilities.  Delegating tasks is good.  But if you’re still owning the decisions, there’s more potential out there waiting for you to tap.

But It’s Risky!

How many “bet-the-farm” decisions do you make every week? Or year?  Probably not many. Let’s assume you should keep a hand in those.  How many decisions do you make every day that, if no one had asked, you wouldn’t have even noticed whether a good decision had been made or not?  Probably lots. And there’s a whole spectrum in between with varying degrees of risk.

Remember that your goal as a leader is to develop others to their full potential. Don’t shield them from risk; teach them to accept and manage it.  If you’re leading well, they’ll make some mistakes and learn from them.  But those learning mistakes will pay big dividends in the future. If no one is ever learning from bad decisions, it’s the leader making bad decisions.

And It’s Inefficient!

“I can make a decision on the spot that will take hours to coach them to make!”  How many hours did it take you to get to where you can make decisions quickly?  You can choose to keep being the bottleneck or break it by escalating their learning curve.

It’s Leadership!

If leadership wasn’t risky everyone would do it.  And being a leader means investing in others. Big return investments sometimes require short-term inefficiencies.

Here are a few questions to get you thinking about decisions you should consider delegating:

  • Does the risk warrant your time and energy? What’s the worst-likely result of a bad decision?  Is it recoverable?
  • Who else could make this decision? That’s probably NOT the person to give it to – they’re probably already a bottleneck.  Ask who would grow most from this decision opportunity. That’s where investing this decision will get the best return.
  • If you can’t let go of the decision, who should you involve in the decision? Keep only what you must and let go of the rest.  Who has the most relevant information? Push the decision down rather than pulling information up.  Let someone else make it but with your concurrence.

This one is your decision: Grow others or continue being the bottleneck. © 2023 enLumen Leadership Services

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