Leadership Caffeine™-Why You Might Want to Pause Before Voicing that Decision

image of a coffee cupThe next time an employee or a group is looking to you to make a tough decision, you might want to screw up your courage, boldly look at them and…say nothing.

Teaching others to employ effective decision-making processes is one of the most important and often ignored responsibilities of those in leadership roles. Unfortunately, training your team to look to you for the calls on how to fix problems and move forward is much easier than teaching your team members to stand on their own for most issues.

You are fighting inertia when you pause and look to someone else or to a group to process on a decision. More than likely, you’re in a leadership role specifically because those above you developed trust in your decision-making abilities. It’s part of what got you this far, and now, you’re being asked to pause and to teach. Not voicing your decision is likely much harder than making it.

Too many managers incorrectly wield their decision-making authority, either because they are particularly comfortable in this role, or, because they view it as a symbol of strength or even power. Some use decision-making authority to control others.

Almost counter-intuitively, it takes more strength to not make a decision for someone else, especially when the answer is clear. And as for power, the old adage of you have to give it to get it is particularly relevant here.

7 Reasons Why You Should Back Off and Let Others Make Decisions:

1. Placing the responsibility for decisions on others is a sign of confidence and respect.

2. Showing others you are comfortable delegating decision-making enhances your leadership credibility.

3. Nobody learns anything when you make the decision.

4. You’re not always the smartest one in the room, even if you’re in charge.

5. The point in time when someone asks you what to do is one of those powerful teaching and developmental moments. Don’t squander it.

6.  You are able to assess where people and teams are at based on how they approach and make decisions.

7. Your skillful use of questions in lieu of immediate answers, helps people understand what’s important and how decisions potentially impact goal achievement.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

While I suggest pausing (in non-emergency situations) instead of offering up your quick solution, you still own the responsibility for the decisions of your team and team members. There’s no shirking responsibility for outcomes, particularly for the tough calls. However, you are also on the hook for developing others, stimulating innovation and promoting high performance and all of these are better supported and more often realized when you teach others how to make decisions. We know that you know the answer. Your real test is whether you can teach others to reach an answer as good as or better than yours.

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Art Petty is a Chicago-based management consultant focusing on strategy and leadership development. Art regularly speaks on innovation in management and leadership, and his work is reflected in two books, including the recent, Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.  Art publishes regularly at The Management Excellence blog at https://artpetty.com

Prior to his solo career, Art spent 20+ years leading marketing sales and business units in systems and software organizations around the globe. You can follow Art on twitter: @artpetty and he can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]




By | 2016-10-22T17:11:31+00:00 April 2nd, 2012|Decision-Making, Leadership, Leadership Caffeine|2 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Andrew Meyer April 2, 2012 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    Thanks, interesting points. I’ll add one more that I got from the Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko’s. If a subordinate calls and asks you to solve a problem or make a decision, they are trying to shift responsibility and get the monkey off their back.

    • Art Petty April 2, 2012 at 2:10 pm - Reply

      So much more visual than my post! Thanks, -Andy

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