Friday, June 1, 2012

Take rocks out of your boss' rucksack...don't put them in. He's already carrying a load too

The point of this statement is to discourage leaders from "delegating up".  Clearly , there will be times when you need guidance or want to test your thinking but don't expect your boss to solve your problems for you.

In my leadership positions I always made it clear that staff could approach me with difficult problems, but I also expected them to have analyzed the problem, identified different courses of action, evaluated those courses of action and come to a recommended solution.  Likewise, I always tried to do the same thing with those I reported to.  In this way, the senior leader can provide feedback, challenge or support.

Why is this important?  First of all, I believe decision making needs to be taken at the lowest level possible in the organization....where leaders are closest to the action, have the best information and understand the impact of the decision more fully.  Second, I believe it's important for the development of the leader to do the analysis, come to a recommendation and then test that thinking.  This helps build the a process that gives the leader the capability to deal with issues of increasing size and complexity over time.  Third, in a global enterprise it is even more important that decisions get taken at the lowest possible level.  Leaders are often separated by thousands of miles and multiple time zones.  The local leader has to be the driver of alternatives, analysis and recommendations. 

To this thread of thinking there is also a cautionary note for senior leaders to not to LET their direct reports delegate up.  It's a tempting may be faster and simpler to "give the answer" based on your background and own experiences.  This "don't let them delegate up to you" approach is even more difficult when the junior leader wants take a decision contrary to the one you might have made.  Assuming the consequences of a mistaken judgment aren't catastrophic, it's acceptable to challenge, inquire and let them take the decision.  If it's a mistake, then there is an opportunity to learn and develop from the mistake. 

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