Who Gets To Decide?

 

Just about every leadership book and every leadership speaker talks about the importance of allowing people to fail. The concept is: true delegation does not occur unless and until I allow people to make their own decisions, take their own risks and succeed or fail on their own.

Easy to say, hard to do, on so many levels. Some of the common questions are:

  • How much risk should I allow them to take?
  • What if I am certain they are making the wrong decision; a decision that is going to cost me money, put the company at risk, put the person at risk, etc. How can I simply look away and allow the failure to occur?
  • How many failures are okay?

Lately, I have come to realize this question, who gets to decide, applies in our business life and in our personal lives. It applies to our children and to our aging parents. Just recently this realization was brought home to me with the following stories.

The teenage son of a friend is more focused on sports than on his homework, a familiar story. Mom says, “we have to make him do his homework”. Thus ensures a fight between mom and son. Dad says, “let him suffer the consequences if he chooses not to do his homework”. Who gets to decide? Who is “right”?

The 89 year old father of a friend has cancer. His actions indicate he is confused about what he wants. He says he is willing to get treatment, but he misses his appointments. He lives alone and refuses a live-in caregiver, or even a visiting caregiver. Prior to the diagnosis, he was cognitively in fine shape. Son says, “we have to make him go for his treatments”.  Daughter says, “if he wants to be alone, doesn’t attend his appointments, doesn’t return the doctor’s phone calls, it’s his decision to make, not ours”.

Back to the three questions above…

  • How much risk should I allow them to take?
  • What if I am certain they are making the wrong decision, a decision that is going to cost me money. How can I simply look away and allow the failure to occur?
  • How many failures are okay?

Which choice is the more courageous one? Who gets to decide?

Elisa K. Spain