Empowering Managers and Teams
Delegating decision making authority is a confronting but necessary requirement for business owners and leaders. Empowering your managers and team members to make significant contributions to achieve your vision through delegating decision making authority is a necessity in the fast-paced change of the modern market. It capitalises on the organisations or groups talent and enables the organisation to seize opportunities and shield the business and group from risks which emerge from changes in the environment. Empowering followers is a sign of true leadership, it is something every leader should strive to achieve.
 Benefits of empowering
Empowering your followers has another key benefit, it frees business leaders to focus on critical issues of importance whilst more junior members focus on core aspects of group and organisational importance. After all, business owners and leaders can’t do everything themselves. Removing yourself from routine decision making cycles and other issues of lower importance provides leaders with more of the most valuable resource available, time. Not only do leaders have more time but so do managers and their teams. They no longer have to wait for decisions to be made when they can make them themselves. Quicker decision making cycles for businesses and teams leads to employees spending more time working towards priority tasks rather than waiting to be told what to do.
How do you to guide your managers’ and team’s ability to make decisions to achieve your vision? An appealing vision and willingness to delegate alone aren’t the only tools leaders need to be successful. Follow our how to guide below to enhance your organisation’s and team’s decision making ability.
 Step 1: Clearly understand what it is you want to achieve.
Clearly understanding what it is you want to achieve has two key purposes. Firstly, it provides you with an endstate to work towards and plan around. Understanding where you want to go helps you picture the necessary steps to help you get there. Secondly, it becomes a clear goal for yourself and your team to work towards. Setting the right goals motivates performance for yourself and your followers. It is something you can add to your leadership development plan or yearly goals.
 Step 2: Align your managers and team to your vision.
If your followers are truly going to make decisions in the best interest of the group and business they need to be fully aligned to your vision. This requires more than a token effort of telling them what it is. Instead, it needs to be a process of getting them to believe in its true value. Your vision guides your team and managers behaviour by providing them with an idealistic and appealing goal to work towards and make decisions which best position the group and business to obtain it. Its idealistic nature needs to appeal to intrinsic motivators to connect with your followers. It also needs to be relevant, that is directly covering the upcoming period of time in which you want your followers to make decisions.
Business owners can utilise their business vision to guide manager’s decision making. However they should consider the value in providing greater context and issuing a vision (or mission) statement which covers a shorter period of time. For leaders within organisations, developing an idealistic and appealing vision statement is more constrained. In this case, leaders should look to their organisations vision statement as a source of inspiration. Leaders can take its key components and adjust it to relate to the team’s role in its achievement. Practically to achieve alignment of your managers and team to your vision there are a number of ways you can approach it. One method is to involve your key managers and team members in the process of defining and building the vision. This method actively engages them in the process of defining their own future and contributing to the team environment. It also increases ownership and leads to a greater understanding of the visions true meaning and value. Whilst you risk this process altering or distorting your personal idealistic vision, there is also the increased change they will improve it. You can lead the process by facilitating the discussion, highlighting the emerging threats and opportunities for the business and supplying a draft vision statement to discuss. Another method, more common in organisations, is briefing your team members on the importance of the vision and why it is in their best interests, the business’s and their communities to make decisions which support it. As we highlighted above, this process requires active engagement of your followers, not just a token explanation of what has been selected.
 Step 3: Develop your managers’ and team’s decision making ability.
Leaders develop their followers. If you expect your managers and team to make high-quality, well informed, decisions which benefit the business and team they need to be appropriately prepared to do so. This includes developing their decision making ability, through training, and their understanding of the environment in which they will make decisions. To achieve this we recommend you invest in their ability to utilise a rational decision making model personalised to your business or team and its vision. Rational decision making enhances the outcomes of decisions for leaders, businesses and those utilising them. Leaders also need to invest in their followers understanding of the environment in which they will utilise their rational decision making process. For decision making to be effective it needs to match the reality of the current environment and the potential environment which emerges tomorrow. Practically this is achieved through the design and implementation of a business or group decision making process and training followers how to utilise it and understand the environment in which they operate.
 Step 4: Develop your managers’ and team’s leadership ability.
Making independent and significant contributions to the team’s and organisation’s future requires leadership. Leaders build and develop more leaders. The investment you make in your team and organisations leadership ability will have a range of benefits. To get the best bang-for-buck leaders should personalise their followers leadership development to match the expectations they have of their junior leaders. Simply put: develop your followers for the leadership role you expect, not just a general leadership position.
Delegating decision making authority to members of your team and organisation needs to occur in a professional manner to empower members with the authority they need, minimise risks and achieve your desired outcomes. You need to clearly communicate what you delegate authority for and what you do not for each manager, team member or role. This processes requires you to clearly convey your expectations. It needs to reflect your willingness to balance risk vs. reward for each authority delegated. When allocating your authority you should discuss why it is occurring and the responsibilities that come along with it. Your manager or team member should have the opportunity to ask clarifying questions and come back to you later if they need further guidance. For example: You delegate to your R&D manager that they have the authority to run projects which support the achievement of your vision which conclude within 6 months and are valued at less than $1 million to finalise. Outside of this delegation, they require your written approval to commit organisational resources to projects. Example 2: Your logistics manager has the delegated authority to write off up to $50,000 worth of stock without CEO awareness and adjust delivery schedules.
Real world delegations will obviously be more complex than what I have outlined above. Practically, they should be provided to each member in writing and have their receipt acknowledged by the recipient. Key considerations when assigning decision making authority include: Your vision, the individual’s role and responsibility, your acceptance of risk and the member's assessed readiness for delegation.
 Step 6: Monitor performance and provide feedback.
Monitoring performance and providing feedback is a fundamental function of leadership and is a necessity to be successful as a leader and as a business. Once authority has been delegated and managers and team members are making decisions you need to monitor their decision making performance and provide clear feedback on how they are preforming. Giving effective feedback on decision making should not only include giving feedback on the outcome, but also the process which led to that outcome (the rational decision making process). Your intent, is to improve the quality of both decisions and the decision making process. Read more about feedback in our introduction to giving feedback guide.
 Step 7: Build trust in your team.
Trust is the primary attribute associated with leadership. It enables you to delegate authority to your team and your team to make important decisions without consulting you as their leader. Furthermore, it’s necessary for you to empower your managers to make worthwhile contributions and significant decisions related to achieving your vision. Building trust, as it relates to developing the capacity to make decisions, needs to be a multifaceted approach to reflect the requirement to build trust for both your followers and in yourself. A practical way to do so is by building decision making by your team and organisation progressively into your leadership style. You may choose to introduce manager and team decision making on lower importance issues, potentially with lower risk or task significance, and slowly increase your delegated authority as your confidence and their confidence grows. Another method is one regularly utilised by the military: The back brief. A back brief entails a team member briefing their leader on their decision, its risks and opportunities prior to a decision being made and action initiated. It allows for the leader to ask questions, add value to a plan and reduces potential risks. After a period of trust building, the leader can then remove the back brief. When your expectations change, you should reissue your follower with a new copy of their decision making authority.
 Step 8: Guide decision making.
A vision alone doesn’t provide sufficient information to guide decision making for team members and managers. Leaders need to constantly communicate to their followers what is important to them, the group and the organisation. A key guide to decision making are organisational and leadership values. Values guide decision making by articulating what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. It is also important to communicate other personal decision making and leadership idiosyncrasies to ensure your followers are fully informed. This helps avoid unnecessary conflict amongst the team.
The best method to guide decision making is through providing your managers with a leadership philosophy and regular updates on core priorities. Leadership philosophies clearly communicate leadership expectations and priorities for managers and team members to utilise in their decision making process. A template and further information on what to include is located here.
 Step 9: Self-development.
Critical to empowering followers and delegating authority is self-development which needs to occur within a leader. Leaders need to develop their skills and their leadership style. Skills need to be adjusted to reflect your new priorities and role. Where previously you approved work practices and acted as a gateway, you now have independent followers working within your guidance. You now need the skills to remove obstacles to performance, rather than push performance. Your leadership style may need to adapt to fully capitalise on the benefits delegating authority brings. Leaders who delegate effectively accept that things don’t always run smoothly and that followers don’t always get things right. However, they do understand the positives far outweigh the negatives.
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The author of this page is Rohan Davies
Rohan Davies is the Co-Founder of Teres Development and a leadership development expert. He is a consultant working with both business and private clients to prepare, develop and support leaders in the contemporary business environment.