While coaching a senior executive from a large corporation, she talked about managing her time better. She said that she should delegate more effectively. Her role had been recently expanded. With that came, not only additional accountability and responsibility but also additional staff. She complained that she is swamped with an exponential increase in emails and actions required of her. In addition, the number of decisions she had to make increased too. She was busy, busy and busy. What bothered her was that some of the decisions were rather trivial and she felt that her staff could make them.
It reminded me of a similar situation I was in. I had just been assigned to lead a larger operation in the Asia Pacific. Most of the staff had heard of me before my arrival. But, they really did not know me as a as a person. I was excited and eager to impress my new team and my management.
A senior manager from my Asia Pacific operation came to me to discuss an issue and to get a decision. I listened, asked a few questions and without hesitation told him of my decision. I felt good about my decision and the senior manager executed it flawlessly. The manager came back some time later with another issue and looked for another decision. Again, I listened, ask some questions and made my decision. This time, I felt a little uneasy with the whole episode. I thought that it wasn’t a difficult decision and that the senior manager could have made it.
The manager came to me for another decision. Again I listened and asked some questions. This time, I asked him what decision would he have made if he were me. He looked surprised and hesitated. At the end he told me what he would do. I listened attentively and said, “That is wonderful! I would have taken the same decision.” So off he went and executed the decision.
He came back again for another decision. I listened, asked some questions and asked him what he would have done. He told me and I acknowledged it as a good decision. This time I didn’t stop there. We talked a bit more about decision making and what style he is used to. It was then that I learned that he could have made all those decisions but feared making them as he was previously “burned” for empowering himself. We ended the conversation with a limit of authority where he was empowered to make decisions. He NEEDED MY PERMISSION to make those decisions and he got it.
After listening to the story, my coachee decided to try it out. The next day I received an email that titled, “It Worked” from her. She spoke to her staff about not requiring her approval for routine work and her staff said, “Oh! I didn’t know that I could do that. I am just used to checking with the powers to be.” In this circumstance, the staff is the power. The staff was pleased and so was my coachee. She received fewer emails, fewer routine things to review and can dedicate more time to envisioning and enjoying her other activities.