How to Help Your Team Make Better Decisions (and Avoid Burnout in the Process)

Start by identifying your team members’ strengths.

one line man / Shutterstock
one line man / Shutterstock

As a leader, your work goes far beyond making smart, strategic choices — it also falls on your shoulders to make sure your team is making good decisions, ones that drive its goals and your company’s larger objectives further down the line. But let’s face it: It’s stressful to make big decisions, and even more so to put those big decisions in someone else’s hands. A Gallup study finds that only 24 percent of U.S. managers agree that their peers make “well-thought-out decisions.” And what’s more, a single bad decision — made by you or a colleague — can turn into what feels like a relentless cycle of stress, and in some cases, even burnout

Research discussed in the Harvard Business Review shows that our brains are more reactionary when they’re under stress, causing us to lean on “premature conclusions,” familiar answers, or simply the wrong choices when we’re under pressure. And once we make that bad decision, our stress (and probably a bit of rumination) continues, ultimately impacting other decisions we have to make. 

If you’re a manager looking to trying to push your team in the direction of more thoughtful decisions (and helping to ease your stress along the way), you’ve come to the right place. These strategies will help you give your team the support they need, and will leave you feeling confident in their abilities.

Determine your team’s strengths and put them into action

Gallup finds that strength-based teams, or a group of people who understand their natural strengths as well as those of the people they’re collaborating with, are more engaged and better equipped to work together. And since they are more apt to find that teamwork sweet spot, Gallup reports that strength-based teams can promote both speed and quality in decision-making. Bill Barnett, M.B.A., an adjunct professor at Rice University, writes in the Harvard Business Review that revisiting old feedback and listing off what you perceive yourself to be good at are simple yet meaningful ways to develop more awareness of the areas you excel in. Try encouraging your employees to track their strengths and utilize these approaches to become more in-tune with themselves and their work. 

Avoid micromanaging

The feeling of someone hovering over you, seemingly waiting for you to mess up so they can quickly offer a correction is stressful. Simply put, micromanagement isn’t just detrimental to employee morale, but also plays a key role in lowering productivity and increasing company turnover rates, according to research published in Radiol Management. Steering clear of this harmful management style is easier said than done, especially when handing an important decision off to someone else, but it is a necessary step to fine-tune your team’s decision-making skills. To minimize the opportunity to micromanage, Radiol Management suggests developing a solid line of communication with your team members that you can stick to. Furthermore, research published in Public Personnel Management recommends setting clear expectations and boundaries from the get-go. Highlight expected outcomes, what your team members are responsible for, and how you might be able to help.

Consider the outcomes, before it’s too late

The key to making a good decision lies in the recognition of all possible outcomes. That way, there is a game plan for every circumstance. According to Gil Shklarski, a chief technology officer who has spent years solving complex problems at Facebook, Microsoft, and other tech companies, a simple chart can make all the difference in streamlining and speeding up decision-making without sacrificing quality. His decision-making matrix, as he describes to Fast Company, helps find ways to “soften, allay, or distribute the risks associated with each of the options.” To make sure your team is covering all realms of possibility, Shklarski recommends consulting a group of people for their thoughts and feedback. When you get different perspectives, your team can consider outcomes they wouldn’t initially expect, and you’re less likely to be taken by surprise.

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