It’s easy to fall in with the idea that decision making is the natural domain of leaders. We have the responsibility, we make the decisions. That’s the way it has to be. Maybe not.

Decision making gravitates upwards for a few reasons:

  1. We have to – some decisions just come with the territory
  2. We like it – a perk of the job if that’s they way you’re made
  3. We’re forced into it – by those above or those below

Number 1 is life, and that’s ok. If you can get over number 2, pushing decisions down to where they have most impact is generally a great idea. But what about decisions pushed up from below?

Here’s what I’m talking about: “Can I do this?”, “What about …?”, “ I’ve got a problem with … what should I do?” Anytime a manager answers those kind of questions with a decision, they’ve pretty much been forced into it. Expedient? Yes. Wise? Not so much.

Teaching staff they can push decisions up the line is rarely smart but there’s one place where it can have an immediate impact on the top and bottom line — any place where customer pedal meets company metal.

Companies that force managers to make customer satisfaction decisions — either by policy or upward buck-passing (a pox on both these houses) — are exactly the kind of companies we love to hate.

Any time I hear, “I just have to check with my supervisor”, or “I’m sorry but I’m not allowed to do that”, or “I know it’s terrible but there nothing I can do”, I know they prioritise something other than the people who’s money they have or want.

The difference between the places we hate and the places we love is in how the customer facing staff take responsibility.

And the thing is … not only does it make a difference to the customer, but employees who are encouraged/allowed/forced to make customer satisfaction decisions on their own, to push the gondola out and sing about it, are often the most highly motivated staff of all.

Skippy Strategy: Let go of the reins — better yet, put them firmly in the hands of the people who can make the most difference — and you’ll take a ride to happier customers, happier staff and a skippier day’s work.

Keeping Promises