Do you empower employees closest to an issue to make decisions?

Last updated by Brady Stroud [SSW] about 2 months ago.See history

Sometimes a senior leader intervenes in an issue that could be handled by someone else who is well-informed and close to the problem. This intervention is not a good idea because it diverts focus from high importance strategic priorities that senior leaders should be involved in. Instead it is better for the senior leader to ask the person closest to the issue to fix the problem, that way they feel empowered and the senior leader can focus on strategy.

The problems

When senior leaders are involved in every level of decisions, it causes several problems including:

❌ Setting the wrong tone for how senior leadership is spending their time.

❌ Conveying a "command and control" model of management, disempowering others.

❌ Inefficient use of company resources.

The solution

When a senior leader notices an issue they think could be handled by someone else, they should do the following:

  1. Determine if there is an existing person responsible for fixing this issue.
  2. If there is, ask the person responsible to resolve the issue.
  3. If there isn't, check that their senior is happy to hand it over and ask the new person to to resolve the issue instead.

This delegation leads to benefits such as:

✅ Trains the employee to fix the problem and take responsibility for it in the future

✅ Employee empowerment because all employees have important decision making capability

✅ Increased efficiency because senior leaders are focused on issues which need their attention more

✅ Reduced bottlenecks in the future because senior leaders are not the only ones making decisions

You can formalize this process using the Cross-approval system which helps clarify who is responsible.

Scenario - Missing spare office keys

Imagine that the spare office keys have gone missing and it is unclear who has them.

If the CEO notices this issue, there are 2 ways to handle it:

❌ Bad Example - The CEO sends a company wide email

It's not a good idea for the CEO to send an email to everyone about this issue.

The outcome of this approach is that:

  • It desensitives people to the CEOs emails because they are uninmportant
  • A poor impression is given for how the CEO spends their time
  • The people who are responsible for looking after the spare office keys feel disempowered

✅ Good Example - The CEO notifies the person who should be responsible for the spare office keys

A better scenario is for the CEO to email the person who should be responsible for the spare office keys and ask them to send an email to the company instead. The CEO should also communicate that they want that employee to handle this task in the future.


Empowering those closest to an issue to make decisions fosters efficiency and strategic focus within the business. By delegating tasks to those best suited to handle them, senior leaders can concentrate on high-priority matters, enhancing overall productivity and employee satisfaction.

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