Great Leaders Delegate!

As a leader, regardless of what level, one of the most important skills necessary for success is delegating authority and responsibility to your team.  Done properly, this will improve your effectiveness and performance and that of your team, allow more time to focus on your key responsibilities and objectives, and increase employee participation and accountability.

Many years ago, after being appointed to my first leadership role, I learned, the hard way, the importance of this skill in becoming an effective leader and manager.  In reading the many books and articles about this subject, I found a very simple and straightforward tool that has worked well, both individually, and within organizations – The Decision Tree.  This tool was described in Susan Scott’s book, Fierce Conversations, and has been used in many organizations, including General Electric, to improve managerial effectiveness, performance, and employee engagement.

The Decision Tree provides clear authority and responsibility for decisions and actions in the organization.  To use this tool, first think of the organization as a growing tree that bears fruit.  In order to ensure its long-term health, there are many decisions that need to be made on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

With this scenario in mind, there are four levels of decision making and action.  The specific level is dependent on the degree of potential harm or good to the organization that will result from the decision and action.  These four levels are as follows:

  • Leaf Level – Make the decision, and act on it.  No report is required. 
  • Branch Level – Make the decision, act on it, and report after the fact, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, depending on the action.
  • Trunk Level – Make the decision, but do not take action until reported, and approved.
  • Root Level – Make the decision, with input from others.  These are the decisions that, if poorly made and implemented, could cause major harm and damage to the organization.

The benefits of the Decision Tree tool are as follows:

  • Clearly defines the level of authority and responsibility for decisions and actions, at all levels of the organization.  Each team members knows exactly where they have the authority to make certain decisions and take action.
  • Provides team members with a clear path of professional development.  Progress is made as decisions are moved to the next level – from Root, to Trunk, Branch, and Leaf.  As employees demonstrate good decision making at the Root level, their decision level can, and should be, moved up to the next level.
  • Develops leadership and decision making skills at lower levels in the organization, freeing up leaders and manager to take on the more challenging and important responsibilities themselves.
  • Increases personal accountability, allowing employees to identify and recommend solutions outside of the supervisor’s personal reach.
  • Develops future leaders.

In summary, the Decision Tree provides leaders and teams with very clear guidelines for decision making and action, improved effectiveness and efficiency at all levels, professional and leadership development opportunities, and increased employee engagement, accountability, and participation.

Since you can’t do everything yourself, I highly recommend using this tool to reduce your To Do list, increase focus on key responsibilities and objectives, get your team involved, and help your organization grow and be successful.


“The first rule of management is delegation. Don’t try and do everything yourself because you can’t.” – Anthea Turner

People and organizations don’t grow much without delegation and completed staff work because they are confined to the capacities of the boss and reflect both personal strengths and weaknesses.– Stephen Covey

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