Sharing Decision-Making with Your Staff

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Every day, great ideas flow from our employees. Owners and managers who believe they have nothing to learn from their staff should consider how King David managed his army: “Then David consulted with the captains of the thousands and the hundreds, even with every leader” (1 Chronicles 13:1). Considering the size of David’s army, that was a lot of people to ask. We will gain important information we need to keep our business intact.


Get into the habit of asking your employees questions, and don’t be defensive when they give you suggestions that you don’t like; otherwise, you’ll close off the pipeline for future ideas. If an idea seems harebrained, ask for more information: “How would that work?” or “How would that save money?” or “How would that affect customers (or another department)?” The key is to encourage dialogue, participation, and understanding. Some of your staff may not communicate as effectively as you do, so help them out. Solomon advises, “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out” (Proverbs 20:5).

Sam was an expert tool maker and made some great suggestions that enhanced the company’s products, but sometimes he would get caught up in an idea and go on at some length about all the possible variations he could imagine. His manager learned to listen patiently as Sam explained his ideas, and that patience was generally rewarded with useful product or process improvements.

When you ask your employees for an opinion or feedback, you demonstrate your respect for them. We all like to be asked what we think—just look at the success of American Idol; viewers love to vote for their favorite singers. Likewise, your employees like to be asked for their input. One word of caution, though: Don’t ask if you don’t care, because asking and not caring about the response, is worse than not asking at all.

One good question to regularly ask your employees is, “What can I do to assist you in your tasks?” You may learn from your sales staff that the credit department is slow in reviewing and approving credit applications, thus giving you an opportunity to intervene and help fix the logjam. One time I heard from my staff that the copy machines were jamming constantly. After reviewing the situation, I ordered several replacement copiers to help improve productivity.

When making decisions that will affect your staff, solicit their input to help you avoid mistakes and make the best choices. If someone tells you, “I don’t think this new policy will work,” follow up to find out why. A few well-chosen questions can help you differentiate between cases where the change is being resisted for no reason, and times where the objection is based on legitimate concerns. Sometimes your employees just need to hear more about how the changes will enhance their jobs. If a counter clerk, for example, expresses concern that a new computer system will take an extra sixty seconds to process each order, you can explain how the new system will automatically update inventory and prepare reorder lists, saving time and money overall. When your staff understands the logic and reasons behind your decisions, they can be more supportive.