18 September 2022 |

Why can’t my team make decisions without me?


The point of hiring people is scaling your business.

It’s frustrating when the people you are paying to do a job still expect you to be around to help them with every decision.

“Why can’t my team make decisions without me?” is one of the most common questions founders ask me.

Remember this: The problem you see is the outcome of the real problem. (If you read my last week’s email, think about the seeds and the soil.)

You need teams who are able and confident in their ability to make quick decisions when obstacles come up. 

This doesn’t happen by accident.

3 common leadership mistakes preventing your team from becoming empowered decisions makers:

  • Hiring potential without a plan
  • Lack of clear expectations
  • Bosses who are “Fixers”

Hiring potential without a plan

Although we all wish we had an infinite budget to hire whoever we wanted, this is never the case. So instead, we hire the best person we can find or promote someone internally before they are ready. 

These are usually the people we see the potential in.

But as leaders, we fail them by assuming they will figure things out on their own.

Believing in other people is good–you should believe in your team–but when you hire someone without experience, you need a plan to focus on their development. 

First, focus on their strengths. What are the things they do well? Why did you hire them?

Next, focus on their skill gaps. What areas will they need to improve to be effective in their role?

A few examples: 

  • Priority setting
  • Approachability
  • Understanding others
  • Presentation skills
  • Problem-solving

Focus on these skills one at a time. Then, collaborate and decide which will have the biggest impact on their ability to do well in their role.

Once you’ve identified the first skill to work on, you need to develop a plan.

  • Something to learn from (a book, podcast, video)
  • Someone to learn from (mentor, manager)
  • A challenging assignment
  • Due dates for each 

I recommend picking up For Your Improvement. It’s a book that is like an easy button for developing others. 

It gives suggested reading materials and challenging assignments for almost 100 skills. It also provides a detailed breakdown of what skill gaps look like in each area. 

Lack of Clear Expectations

“The greatest enemy of communication is the illusion that it has taken place” – George Bernard Shaw

Never assume your team knows who is supposed to do what and by when.

Take time to ensure your entire team is on the same page and that there is transparency around task ownership.

This transparency will also help prevent your teammates from feeling like they are doing most of the work. Let them see how the work is divided.

Verify everyone understands the expectations

Capture ownership in meeting notes

Keep your task manager updated

Clarifying the WHY is also important but is often missed. 

Take time to ensure everyone understands why their task is important. 

Helping your team understand how their role connects to the bigger vision will help them be flexible and improvise as they face obstacles.

Imagine you are building a Lego set, but instead of having the entire instruction book, you are only given one page at a time.

When things are going as planned, this works just fine.

But what happens when you lose a piece thanks to a temper tantrum by your three-year-old?

If you have the full plan, you can improvise and find a piece from a different set that will allow you to keep building. But without understanding how that piece fits into the larger structure, you are going to be less confident in your decision.

For employees, this is where paralysis by analysis kicks in. And people start relying on the boss’s decisions, so they don’t get in trouble.

Clarity creates confidence. 

“The Fixer”

When your team makes mistakes, a natural reaction is often to jump in as the fixer.

And you do this with the best of intentions.

You want your clients to be happy and want to help your team.

The truth is this approach teaches your team to bring you all of their problems. And why not? It is easier for them to bring them to you than spend time and energy fixing them. 

A delicate balance is necessary when your team comes to you with problems.

You need to be there to support them and listen to their challenges, but also give them back ownership of the fix. 

This is the path to developing problem solvers.