Consistency in Delegation

Completely centralized decision making is incompatible with a successful team atmosphere.  There are some things you just have to let go of, not only to empower your team, but also to keep the organization efficient.  In the past, I have written about the importance of empowering your team, allowing for a certain level of autonomy, etc.  However, the most important part of delegation is consistency.

People want to know what is expected of them.    Failure to apply a consistent standard of delegation will deflate morale and inflate indifference.  If your team isn't clear on what they can do, they will do nothing.  Inevitably, prolonged exposure to inconsistent delegation will result in an inefficient organization (you will have to make the final decision on everything from which vendor use for coffee to what color ink is in the pens at the front desk) and more importantly decreased innovation and team productivity.. 


Whatever, you choose.  Stick with it.

The people in your organization must know when they are allowed to make a decision independently and when they have to ask you.  If you are unsure about how much leeway to give them in this area, I suggest starting out small.  It is far easier, and less damaging to team morale, to delegate more decisions later than it is to take responsibility away from someone after it has been given.  However, that is up to you and is not the purpose of this post.  The point is, whatever, you choose--stick with it.


“You can make a decision as long as it is the right decision.  If you are going to make the wrong decision, come ask me first.”

Criticizing the act of making a decision on the sole basis of the outcome is a horrible precedent to set. This action gives the impression that, “You can make a decision as long as it is the right decision.  If you are going to make the wrong decision, come ask me first.” The enormous pressure on the individual resulting from this attitude will eventually lead to no decision being made without explicit approval.  Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with critiquing a judgment that has been made, with talking through the mindset which led to the final choice, or with providing feedback as to how the decision could have been made better.  However, a leader cannot say “You should have come to me with this first” just because a poor decision was made.  This is especially true if the individual has been allowed to make the same choice in the past.

A team member will never be able to make autonomous decisions if they aren't sure when they are supposed to.   A leader cannot chastise a team member for failing to make a decision if they were previously criticized for making one.  More importantly, the delegation of decision making cannot be posthumously determined by the outcome of the decision.