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As a manager, you are probably accustomed to making a long list of decisions, both big and small, every day at work. Because you are experienced in this area, you know how to research your options, weigh the pros and cons and commit to a course of action.

You may have confidence in your personal decision-making skills, but what about the skills of the employees you manage? Do they have the knowledge and experience they need to plan and execute important choices? An important aspect of employee development is learning how to make autonomous decisions, particularly when they are difficult. Your role as a manager is to prepare your employees to be independent decision-makers, supporting them but resisting the urge to micromanage or do the task yourself.

Teaching Decision-Making Skills Without Overmanaging

Educating and empowering your employees to think and act on their own is a highly rewarding, if sometimes challenging, process. It is important to stay engaged and help out when necessary but leave the real action to your employees.

Start small.

Give an inexperienced employee a small, manageable project where she can hone her decision-making skills without much risk to the organization. Allow her to take ownership of the assignment and create a detailed plan for how she would address the issue. Think of the task as an employee development and training exercise; be patient and don’t jump in with your own solutions.

Be involved in the planning stages.

Make yourself available to an employee as he develops his approach to the project. Ask questions as he progresses, both so you understand his decisions and so you can help identify potential problems along the way. Employ the Socratic method for teaching, using guided questioning to encourage critical thinking and problem solving. For example: What do you plan to do here? Why? Who else do you need to help you? How will you execute the plan? What if Plan A doesn’t work… what is Plan B?

Step back and be an observer.

Unless you see glaring errors or problems in your employee’s choices, let her follow through with her plan. She will put her decision-making skills to the test and be challenged to think on her feet if any changes need to be made.

Focus on lessons learned.

Once the project is complete, sit down with your employee for a review and analysis of what happened and what useful lessons you can use in the future. Again, ask questions and let him lead the evaluation. What was successful? What would you change next time? What did you learn?

How do you support your employees through the decision-making process?

Learn more about EDSI’s employee development course, Increasing Personal Effectiveness.

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