Way number 1: My team has come up with these three options, A, B and C. Which one do you want us to do?
Way number 2: I need you to approve A. We also have options B and C, but we would not recommend them.
Way number 3: Just to let you know that we are doing A. We explored B and C but they did not rank as high as A.
These 3 ways describe 3 different concepts of empowerment, 3 different styles of leadership and, also, 3 different organizations. The 3 are legitimate, but they are very different. Don’t kid yourself, they are not simple variations.
Many people still ask for permission for things that the leadership does not expect to have to approve. But they may do so, because it’s now on their plate, in front of them. Many Boards complain that decisions are ‘pushed up’ too much, but do very little to change the situation. On the other hand, many leadership structures expect to be presented with options, for the latter to make a final decision.
Knowing whether ‘you are’ 1, 2 or 3, and, more important, whether you’d like to be 1 or 2 or 3, or which one of them your senior leadership expects, is fundamental. These questions are, more often than not, simply not posed or articulated. In these cases, decision making runs in automatic pilot mode, creating default positions, that are never validated properly, that, sooner or later, will drive people, top or middle or bottom, for different reasons, simply mad.
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