I've had several conversations recently with frustrated parents and grandparents over the lack of responsibility their older children or grandchildren have even as teenagers and young adults. One mark of a mature person is the ability to make wise decisions. And the same goes for a company, church or organization. What makes them successful (bear fruit) is their ability to make good decisions from the leadership down through all of the organization. And the one big obstacle that hinders good decision making skills is the inability for the leaders to know when and how to release control and delegate responsibility and decision making to others. Too early and bad choices are often made. Too late and the leader gets burdened with an overload of stress and work which can also lead to bad decisions.
In a family, do you give your teenage son or daughter the authority to make decisions on their own? Sure there are many things you would like for them to decide for themselves each and every day, but there are other decisions that need to be made with the parents approval. How do you conclude which decisions they can make on their own and how do you communicate this?
Here is a great visual tool (The Decision Tree) that will help you as a leader or parent in the decision making process from the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. The Decision Tree will help your organization be more productive (bear fruit) by identifying clearly, which categories decisions and actions fall into, so that an employee, child or volunteer knows exactly where he or she has the authority to make decisions and act and how to grow and empower others to get along without you.
Decisions are arranged in categories based on their importance and impact on the organization. The analogy of root, trunk, branch, and leaf decisions indicates the degree of potential harm or good to the organization an action is taken at each level.
Poor decisions at any level can hurt an organization, but if you unwittingly yank a leaf off a tree, the tree won’t die. A Root Decision if poorly made and implemented could cause major harm to the person or organization. Giving a teenager or employee this visual picture and using it to categorize your decisions will give them a better understanding of what choices they can make on their own and what needs to be decided by the group.
Leaf Decisions Make the decision. Act on it. Do not report the action you took.
Branch Decisions Make the decision. Act on it. Report the action you took daily, weekly, or monthly.
Trunk Decisions Make the decision. Talk about your decision before you take action
Root Decisions Make the decision jointly, with input from many people. Leadership gives final approval.
The goal is to provide employees or volunteers a clear upward path of professional development. Progress is made when decisions are moved from root to trunk to branch to leaf. As an employee demonstrates a track record of making good decisions in the trunk category, for example, it will be satisfying to both the employee and the person to whom she reports when those decisions can be moved to the branch category. This works similarly with a child. The more responsible he or she is making branch decisions, the more responsibility they will be given to make decisions.
The Decision Tree also raises the level of personal accountability. Whenever we work diligently and brilliantly, without having to be told exactly what to do, it gives more ownership to the employee and unburdens the manager or executive of work. It also teaches the child responsibility, confidence and increases their decision making skills.
Where might the Decision Tree work in your life?
Home, with your children.