Why Your Team Comes to You for Every Decision & How to Empower Them to Stop

Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in a sea of decision making, wondering why the team around you is unable to find solutions on their own?

The reason why this may be happening is because you haven’t been able to fully communicate your product’s or service’s mission and strategy to your entire team.

What is strategy?

Strategy is commonly defined as “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” The problem with most strategies, however, is they are vague and leave too much room for trial and error.

Strategy, therefore, is better defined as “deciding what you’re NOT going to do.” There is never a shortage of ideas to try when you’re growing a business, so deciding which ideas are not best for you to focus your time and energy on become a key part of your success.

Once your team knows what you are, and what you are not, going to do as part of your strategy, they become empowered to make more decisions on their own. Anything inside of the strategy they should be allowed to test without your input. Anything outside of the strategy needs your approval or feedback.

The Team Arrow Analogy

In other words, every decision you have to make as a leader in your company highlights a missing principle.

At the SaaStr Conference this year, Des Traynor, Co-Founder of Intercom, spoke on “Product Principles for Fast Growing Companies”. He used images of arrows to illustrate why people come to you with questions and how to better align your teams to decrease the amount of decisions that cross your desk.

A Team Without a Clear Strategy

A team without a clear strategy. How to fix team building and leadership issues.

If you have a team full of hardworking individuals, none of whom are on the same page about what you are building, your company is a sea full of arrows all heading in various directions. They bump into each other. They may argue a great deal. Their work may seem way off target to others on your team. Most importantly, all of the arrows are coming to you to solve these problems because they all lack a full understanding of your strategy.

Aligned Teams Working Without a Clear Corporate Strategy

Aligned teams working in misaligned directions. Team building ideas.

The next stage of corporate dysfunction comes when you believe all of your teams are working in the same direction but soon discover it is only the team members within each team who are on the same path.

Picture a company building an email marketing platform:

  • The marketing team is all working on promoting a platform with the most email templates…
  • The sales team is selling a platform with high email deliverability rates at the lowest cost…
  • The client services team is helping customers build the largest email database possible…
  • The product development team is asking customers about a best-in-class editing feature…
  • The engineering team is developing a platform that gets emails to the right people in the fastest amount of time possible…

Each team clearly understands their direction and team members within each team are working diligently to achieve the mission. The only problem is none of the teams are on the same mission. Not fixing this issue will ultimately lead to misaligned teams, products, and services.

Aligned Teams With a Clear Corporate Strategy

Aligned teams working in the same direction. Team building ideas.

Ultimately, you must ensure that all of your team leaders have a clear vision of your corporate strategy and principles. Additionally, each of those team leaders must be communicating those principles and strategies down to their frontline employees. When you have achieved that success, you’ll have less decisions crossing your desk, and your product or service will have a higher chance of succeeding.

How to Identify & Fix Your Strategy & Team Alignment Issues

Remember, when people don’t know what you’re trying to build, every arrow has to come to you for direction. That’s not only unscalable, it is also a recipe for business disaster.

To fix the arrow fiasco, figure out what the most frequent and the most generalized
decisions and problems are that cross your desk. Then figure out the principle that is missing. Define the principle and clearly share it with your entire company.

  • “We will only do joint ventures with X-type of companies,” will decrease the number of times you get asked to take on a new JV partner or concept from marketing.
  • “We are only focusing our paid search efforts in vertical-X this quarter,” will decrease the number of ads you have to review from your digital agency.

Anything outside of the principle should be redirected for discussion when the strategy fits.

Remember, your goal as a leader is to get all of your arrows (employees) pointing their efforts in the same direction. The only way to do that is to ensure your teams are all working on the same strategy.

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