The Art of Strengths Coaching

D is for Decision Making Authority

Imagine you have recently taken a new role in an organisation. You started with enthusiasm and agreed your goals. After trying several creative ideas, however, you met with resistance.

When taking the job, you believed you had a clear brief and mandate. But several departments feel you are treading on their toes. How to tackle this challenge?

One approach is to meet with your key sponsor – the person to whom you report – and stakeholders to make clear contracts about your decision making authority. Let’s explore how to take these steps.

You can agree with your sponsor
about your decision making authority

You are prepared to be accountable, but you also need autonomy and authority. So it is vital to clarify the extent of your decision making authority.

Bearing this in mind, arrange a meeting with your key sponsor. Looking at your role, get their views on the following topics.

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“The first step was to agree on the specific activities where I had the power to act autonomously,” said John who explored this exercise with his manager.

“This proved relatively easy, though there was slightly less freedom than I had imagined.

“The second step was to explore the areas where I had to consult. My manager agreed it was important that as few people as possible to be involved in making certain decisions, otherwise there would be paralysis.

“So we agreed on the activities: a) Where other people should be fully consulted in making a decision; b) Where other people should be given a sense of ownership, but that I had the final say; c) Where other people had the final say and I had to try to work with them to get a win-win.

“The next step was to explore the grey areas. These were the activities where it was not clear who could make a decision and this was creating difficulties.

“So we began moving these grey areas into one of the first two sections – those where I had the authority to make decisions or where I needed to consult with others.

“It was important to take this step, otherwise there would be continued confusion.”

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe how you can make clear contracts with your key sponsor – your manager – about your decision making authority.

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After agreeing on these areas with your key sponsor – or sponsors – it is time to move onto the next step.

You can agree with the various stakeholders
about your decision making authority

“My sponsor paved the way for these meetings,” said John, the person mentioned above.

“Before I approached the other stakeholders – such as the heads of departments – he sent out a request for help. This read something like:

As you know, we are all aiming to achieve a common goal. This calls for making clear contracts about each person’s – and each department’s – decision making authority.

Bearing this in mind, John will be meeting each of you to agree on the respective areas of decision making authority.

At the moment, you each have areas: a) Where you have the autonomy to make decisions; b) Where you need to consult with others; c) Where the areas are somewhat grey.

I would like you to work together with John to make clear contracts about the respective areas of decision making authority.

Then we can quickly get the show on the road. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of your meetings.

“My sponsor also talked with individual department heads to ease the way,” continued John.

“This laid the groundwork for the meetings. Although there were still some challenges, we worked together to find win-win solutions. We managed to work-out the respective decision making authority.”

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe how you can make clear contracts with other key stakeholders about your and their decision making authority.

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You can continue to make clear contracts
about your decision making authority

Unexpected events or poor communication can jeopardise working relationships. So it is important:

To keep making clear contracts.

To keep connecting with key sponsors and stakeholders to update how things are going and, if necessary, review or change the contracts.

To anticipate future events and clarify the respective responsibilities when tackling these challenges.

Great organisations focus on clarity, contracting and concrete results. This includes ensuring that people are clear on their decision making authority. Such clarity provides an excellent platform for achieving success.

If you wish, try tackling the final exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe how you can continue to make clear contracts with your sponsor and other key stakeholders.

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