We make decisions everyday, from the moment we open our eyes in the morning to the moment we close them at night. Most decisions are made subconsciously, like putting your pants on one leg at a time or putting water into the kettle before turning it on. But occasionally, we have to make some decisions with deliberation – what am I going to make for dinner? Who do I tip this week in the football tipping comp?
There are decisions that are made by governments and corporations everyday, some affect us directly. In a democracy, we are given the right to vote for our governments who make those important decisions on our behalf. In the corporate world, consumers and investors influence business decision-making by whether we choose to buy their products and by how much we value the shares in their company. But ultimately, we leave these decisions to the executives and those elected to power to make on our behalf, in the belief that they are making these decisions for the good of all. So, why then, do we constantly delegate decision-making to others? Do we really feel more empowered when we’re being given the opportunity to “make our voices heard”?
Let me give you an example. My favourite TV show kicked off its third season in June with much anticipation. We were told the new season would see some changes – relationships and loyalties may be tested. Many fans were upset by the possibility of a massive change in the relationship between the key characters after the season premiered. By episode 2, it seemed the disgruntled fans had already forgotten what they were upset about the previous week because their focus had turned to the new opening title sequence – different title cards and a whole different theme music. Fans started declaring their hatred for the change via Twitter. So the network decided to “empower” the fans by allowing them to vote on which opening title sequence they preferred – the old or the new.
A poll was quickly set up on the network’s site to let the fans vote on which opening sequence to use for the remainder of the current season. Within a couple of days the poll was hacked so that votes were automatically generated non-stop in favour of the new title sequence. More complaints piled in over Twitter. The dodgy votes were discounted and order was restored. The old titles won out, so the fans got back what they had in the first place but the fact that the poll had been hacked made a mockery of the process.
What was more interesting was that many viewers commented they did not really think it was a big enough deal to warrant a vote. Why waste so much energy voting for something that actually has no impact on the overall enjoyment of the show? If the network executives decided it was time to spruce up the opening sequence given the theme and direction of the new season, why not go with it and give it a chance, at least for a few more weeks? Did any of us really feel more empowered by the outcome of that poll?
I was at the football yesterday supporting my team. Unfortunately, they lost, amidst many bad umpiring decisions – and that is not just my opinion. There were many bad calls being made and this seems to be a consistent and persistent complaint I hear from the experts week after week across the league. But whether we agree with the umpire’s decision or not, they are the people given the power and authority on the field to make those tough calls, and once made, players have to abide by them. The key is to move on and focus on continuing the game rather than hanging on to what you believe to be a bad call. You cannot change what has happened – you can only try to make sure the mistake is not repeated or you will lose the game entirely.
So, after all this drivel, my point is simply this: sometimes tough calls have to be made and if you are the one with the authority to make them, then do so wisely and once you have made the call, make it work and don’t back down. Delegating responsibility does not make you more popular or make your delegates feel more empowered – they just make you look weak.