Give Your Team the Power to Make Decisions
Updated: Aug 2
No matter how well thought out and implemented your systems are, you’ll have problems if you don’t give your team the power to make decisions.
In a previous post, How to Delegate Well – 7 Tips for Better Delegation, the emphasis was wide-scoped and dealt with the basics concerning the task of delegating to others. This post intends to narrow the scope to one aspect of delegation – teaching your employees how to make good decisions.
Train for Better Decisions
My dad used to wink and say, “I cut it, and it was too short, so I cut it some more, and it was still too short.” Believe it or not, there are times when that exact scenario is carried out in the arena of decision-making. Measuring twice and cutting once is a maxim those in the construction industry understand well. Yet the adage exists because some must be trained, taught the general truth, or given the proper rule of conduct.
Along with training on how to use the tools for cutting must come the training for using the tools to measure.
Passing on your hard-won wisdom to your employees and training them to make good decisions that are supportive of your company values is difficult, time-consuming, and imperative if you want to have a construction business that is healthy, growing, and profitable.
Here’s the skinny – you frequently must make decisions under what can only be described as challenging circumstances. You’re dealing with numerous constraints – time pressure, constantly changing conditions, financial restraints, client expectations, uncertain employee loyalty, weather issues, governmental rules and restrictions, and often high-stakes outcomes.
Right about now, you’re thinking, “So, how do I find the time to coach others about making good decisions?” The better question is, “How do I find time to carry on if I haven’t trained others to make some of the decisions?”
Delegate More Decisions
Teaching (and learning) practical decision-making is a journey, not a destination.
Therefore, begin with the understanding that coaching employees to take on decision-making responsibilities will require time and effort. Some of the practical ways you can use to start the process are:
Create the time for them to learn on the company dime
Provide opportunities for practice
Arrange for online training programs, videos, or personalized eLearning courses (for example, udemy offers courses in problem-solving)
Allow space for people to fail safely
You’re likely to find that there will be times when you and your employees need to course correct for both the decision and the decision-making process. Remember, learning practical decision-making skills can’t be placed on a checklist, marked off, and forgotten about. Yeah, a journey, not a destination.
Provide Decision-Making Tools
It is easy to fall into the trap of helping your employees make the right decision. Unless it’s a matter of life and death, teach employees how to find a solution rather than giving them the answer.
To that end, you must give them the tools to aid the process. You, the construction company you’ve built, and the company values you provide are the starting point. Give them an example to emulate. Remind employees that the way you make decisions is based on being informed, thinking logically, being strategic, and having integrity at each juncture.
Some of the physical tools you can provide are:
Links to processes
An organizational chart of the hierarchy of decision-making at your company
A list of in-house subject-based authorities (who knows how to do what?)
Names and contact information based on the need
One way to cultivate decision-making skills, such as solving problems, assessing performance, and analyzing risk, is to include role-playing scenarios during meetings or in one-on-one chats. Ask, “If (this) happens, what will you do?” “Why?” “How will you carry it out?” Use examples of something that has come up recently or something that you’ve solved in the past.
Better yet, be prepared to use what is happening right now to teach and guide while allowing the employee the opportunity to unravel the mess themselves – even when it seems blasted slow.
Determine Decision-Making Parameters
Employees need to know what they can and what they CANNOT decide.
When decisions are low-risk or can be fixed easily (maybe even undone,) there is more flexibility in assigning the decision-making task.
But when big bet decisions are to be made, when the risks involved are significant, or when more than one person is needed to make the decision, the parameters are applied appropriately.
Everyone in your company must understand who has authority for which decisions. An organizational chart of the hierarchy is helpful. A clear escalation path is imperative.
Some parameters to consider are:
Remember that when the people closest to a decision are empowered to act autonomously as changes arise, it is more likely they will be able to obtain quicker and more satisfactory results.
Authority is the key. Employees are more likely to perform better when they understand their authority and have been coached to tackle problems independently.
Simplicity is the principle. Having the right people in the right place, with the proper training, leads to better decisions at the right time.
The Pygmalion Effect
This is important! What is known as the Pygmalion Effect happens when high expectations from one person lead to high performance from another.
Whether your understanding of the Pygmalion Effect begins with the Greek story of a sculptor creating his ideal woman or with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison in the movie titled “My Fair Lady,” (which was an adaptation of a stage show aptly titled “Pygmalion”) you do well to consider the Pygmalion Effect when beginning the process of giving your employees the power to make decisions.
When your positive expectations decisively impact the behavior or performance of others, it is known as the Pygmalion Effect.
Putting the Pygmalion Effect into action in your construction company is worth the effort on your part. Giving your team the power to make decisions takes time and perseverance, and it begins with you.
Expect your team to make better decisions, and their likelihood of doing so significantly increases.
Reflection: What first step will you take to empower your team to make appropriate decisions?
The second part of this two-part series is found here.
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