You can’t do it all by yourself. I don’t care how brilliant you are, at some point, if you want to scale up your business, you’re going to have to trust and empower your employees to make key decisions for you. It’s tough. I know it is, but it’s also necessary if you want your company to grow.
The reluctance to empower your staff can be the single factor that limits your growth if you don’t find a way to overcome that reluctance. Yes, mistakes will happen. (Here’s a hint, though – you make mistakes too!) At some point, you’re going to have to take a deep breath, implement fail-safes that mitigate your risk, and you’re going to have to trust your employees to make decisions.
It’s important, though, that you give your staff a process for making good decisions because the choices your staff makes will affect both your company and, by extension, their job security. Good decision making isn’t necessarily intuitive, and if you want your company to thrive, you have to prepare your staff for their roles as corporate decision makers. You have to teach them the steps they’re to follow in determining if any given project should get the thumbs up. I’ve found that the best way to help guide your employees is to teach them to ask these three questions:
1. Does this decision further distinguish our company’s uniqueness? I’ve gotten some strange looks when I’ve explained this first question, but there’s a reason that it’s so important. Your company’s uniqueness is your edge. If you water it down, you become invisible to prospects, and that’s fatal. Now in order for your employees to be able to answer this question, you must first ensure that every single member of your company understands your competitive edge – what makes you different from every other company in the world. Only then can you trust your staff to make decisions that preserve or promote your uniqueness. If your employees can’t answer yes to this question, then they have to stop. They can’t proceed any further unless and until they can rework the decision so that it does, in fact, further distinguish your company’s uniqueness.
2. Does this decision further serve our best clients? I’ve seen it happen far too many times – a company does something really well, and in the struggle to grow bigger, loses sight of the reasons why customers flocked to them in the first place. Customers = revenue. We can’t ever, ever forget that key fact. We must always keep our focus on retaining our best customers while attracting new ones. If your employee can’t answer yes to this question, again – they’re stuck until they can.
3. Does this decision maintain or enhance profitability? It’s pretty simple: if you’re losing money, you won’t last. Every single decision needs to be able to pass the profitability test, or it’s dead in the water. If a decision doesn’t make fiscal sense, then it needs to be reworked until it does.
These three questions get at the core of your business’ best interests. If your staff carefully, thoughtfully considers your company’s uniqueness, its best customers, and its profitability with every single decision they make, then your business is in good hands. If you train your staff (and by the way – bonus – you’re training yourself as well) to make reasoned, sound decisions, then you’re free to move on and work on other aspects of your business.
Another important aspect of this process — training your employees to move through these three questions – is how you handle decisions when the answer to one or more of the questions is no. Great opportunities don’t just fall into our laps. Fortune favors the bold, and sometimes we have to put in some effort to shape an opportunity to become a better one.
If you’ve given your staff the authority to make decisions and you’ve given them to tools to make those decisions good ones, then you’ve also got to trust them to be able to reframe or rework their ideas to make them good for your company. When you have staff who knows that their judgment and input is valuable to you, then they’ll feel some of the pride of ownership that you do as well.
And that’s exactly what you want in a decision maker.