It Happens – Manager Mistakes When Making Decisions

Episode 114 of the Lead from Anywhere podcast discusses a mistake managers make when making decisions. What do you do when a customer asks you to make a decision that would side-step the authority you’ve delegated to your team? I share a personal story to illustrate this, then shares some ways to avoid the problem altogether.

Mistake When Making Decisions – Listen Now!

Don’t Make Decisions Without Checking In

Today, I’m starting with a story! A couple weeks ago at my company, BeeSmart Social Media, one of my team members took a Friday off. It just so happened that during that Friday, one of our biggest clients emailed her (with me copied) to ask us to change our meeting date from the following Tuesday to Monday – effectively, moving the meeting to one day earlier.

My employee wasn’t going to be back in the office until that Monday morning, so she wasn’t going to see this email until then. Once the client received her auto-responder, the client reached out to me and asked if I could look at my employee’s calendar and schedule the appointment FOR her.

That struck me as to how inconsiderate it would be for me to put a time on my employee’s calendar for a Monday morning, without talking to her first. It would have been different if I had been the primary contact for this client, but I’m not. I’m honestly not even a secondary; I just happen to have a personal relationship with this client. I looked at it as being asked to, kind of, go around my employee to make a decision about her client and her schedule,without her input. And that’s something I don’t do.

I responded to the client saying that no, I wouldn’t schedule for my employee or reach out to her on her day off to see her availability. I left it with, “She will respond on Monday; if she has time to meet Monday, she’ll let you know.” At the end of the day, the client was fine, everything worked out, and this didn’t come up again. It really made me think about leaders and managers who do go around their teammates; those do make decisions for them without checking with them.

That’s the big mistake I’m talking about today – don’t make decisions for your people without checking in with them first. Ideally, you’ve given them the authority to make those decisions to begin with. Your job is to respect the boundaries YOU’VE drawn yourself – giving your teammate authority to make decisions – and respecting your employees’ boundaries that they’ve set with you, with the customer/client, with themselves, with other team members.

Why do Managers Make This Mistake?

One question I always try to answer on these podcast episodes is, “When does this typically show up for managers and leaders?” Because you and I, we’re on this journey together, and sometimes it’s helpful just to know WHEN to look out for an issue. This type of thing – making decisions for your people when they should really be the one to make the decisions – typically shows up in the following situations.

This often shows up just like it did for me, in a really innocent way – for example, when the decision-making employee is out of the office. It also shows up when you have a problem with micro-managing – it’s actually a pretty good sign that you, manager and leader, are micromanaging!

Another time it shows up is when there’s not a lot of respect for the person who’s making the decision from whomever is poking at that boundary. Finally, unclear expectations or miscommunication can also make this challenge come to the surface for managers and leaders like us.

How Managers Avoid This Decision-Making Mistake

There are a few things you can do to avoid this mistake. First and foremost, DON’T MAKE THE DECISION if you can avoid it. I know that sometimes, especially for time-sensitive projects and work, if someone is out of the office or unavailable, you have to make a decision. I get that; I’ve had to do that before and there’s graceful and effective ways to handle that, as well. But if you can – don’t make the decision. Push back on the person who’s asking for that decision and let them know it will wait until the right person (your employee or team member) can answer the question.

The other thing you can do is check in with your own micromanaging tendencies. I’ve found that most managers and leaders have a hard time letting go (I know I did). I have a couple episodes about this already, but you can overcome micromanaging with good processes and spoken expectations.

And finally, speaking of expectations – that’s the other thing that you have to do here. If you can set the expectation up front – in my case, it’s that my team manages the client work – that’s really helpful. Then you have to reiterate that expectation through your ACTIONS (much like I did in that example, by not setting a meeting without talking to my team member first). Setting those expectations with both your team, yourself, and any other party involved, and then reiterating those through actions, not just words. Not only talking about how it is supposed to be, but showing that, as well. That will keep you from making decisions for your employees when you’ve already delegated that responsibility.

You and I, we’re on this leadership journey together. One thing I’ve learned is that if you give your people the tools they need to be successful, and then get out of their way, they will usually shine (and also make you look pretty good). The last thing you want to do is to insert yourself back into their work or decision-making process – it’s demoralizing and confusing. So when you’re faced with making a decision for your teammate, or when you’re straight-up asked to do so by a customer or client, resist the urge to decide. It will earn you respect and loyalty from your employee and team, and it makes for a more productive and pleasant workplace environment.