What determines your team’s max speed?

People, teams and companies can only move as fast as decisions can be made.

Just take that in for a second and think about your team and your company.

Although this concept seems obvious, often companies seem oblivious as they funnel decisions to centralized “decision makers”. In many companies regardless of size or maturity, people spend more time waiting on someone else to decide, than they do deciding and taking action to succeed. 

When you want growth, adaptivity, results, you need people to be able to take action. 

Decisions happen before taking action, so people need to be owning decision-making to move things along. Your top speed as a company is: decision-speed. However, top speed demands a smooth ride. Making big decisions fast without consistency or alignment feels like whiplash and chaos in a company, and makes everything slow down. (more in a future post)  

You multiply performance & speed by creating the environment for small decisions to be continuously made, aligned with the strategic direction of the company. This way, the company is always taking small actions to move itself forward in the right direction and not “start-stop-waiting” for someone else to decide. Take a second here to think about your team – are they only as fast as your replies in email or Slack?! 

What we’re talking about here is distributed decision-making across people and teams and making decisions smaller for the whole to move forward in strategic alignment faster. Your performance as a company and as a leader is directly tied to your capacity to effectively distribute decision-making. If people can’t decide, they don’t take action and without action there are no results, no momentum. Period. 

What to do: Create the environment for distributed decision-making. Take small steps to get there. People have to grow into decision making with the right environment; they can’t just be “told to make decisions”. Think of it like creating the environment for a plant to grow. You don’t just “tell the plant to grow”, you fertilize the soil, you water it, you “nurture it and it grows on its own.” Similar to decision making – take small steps to help people make decisions and learn that skill every day and it will multiply. Enable aligned decision-making via faster smaller steps, this will translate to action, speed and momentum. 

Let’s focus on 2 big underlying reasons/perceptions, why people don’t make decisions (there are many). 

  • Fear & Anxiety: your brain is built for survival and is threatened when an action could be scary or could lead to a perceived negative outcome – fear of failure, the unknown, getting in trouble, making a mistake, getting overruled, looking silly… the list goes on 
  • Comfort & No Ownership: sometimes a person might not believe they “actually get to decide”, and/or it can be easier to be a passenger in your life and at work because then there’s no consequence to decision-making, “not my fault/problem” “I’ll get overruled anyway” (these both tie back to fear) 

Remember that a person’s perception is in fact their reality. 

So, we need to lessen fear and increase psychological ownership. Here are a few ideas: 

  1. Help people see outcomes and options they could move forward with
  2. Help people take action in smaller more rapid steps
  3. Help people own it by helping them find their own solutions 

Pro-Tip: Decision-making takes a lot of body/brain energy and as we get tired, our abilities get tired too (but we’re oblivious). We get worse as the day goes on, so plan your day accordingly wherever possible.

A few ideas to get decisions moving faster – these can be applied 1-1 or team: 

What How
Help people see outcomes and options they could move forward with. Help them see they’re capable.
Enable seeing possibilities. 
Teach people how to think, not just the answer to the current problem. Ask questions about their thinking to help them see and create a path: What would be the ideal result / outcome of the situation you’re facing? What are some options to solve this? 
Help people take action forward in smaller more rapid steps. Reward courageously “trying” an action over “nailing it”. 
Enable continuous movement forward. 
Make decisions & actions smaller. Make it ok to make mistakes. Ask questions to help them identify an action to try: What’s a 1st small step?What’s a 1% step forward? What’s something small we could do today? What’s something you could do in 15 minutes? 
Help people own it by helping them find their own solutions. Make it easy (and lessen fear) to try their own small step. 
Enable psychological ownership. 
Get out of the way and enable people to make decisions; this makes you infinitely more value-multiplying as a leader, not less. When people come to you with a problem, ask them questions to help them find their way and let them know that you want to support them to grow into making more decisions, so the team can move faster. Be transparent, support their decisions, don’t make them try to read your mind. 

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