Unlock the Potential of Everyone Around You

by  Tara R. Alemany  |  Leadership Development
The Decision Maker by Dennis Bakke

The Decision Maker by Dennis Bakke

I recently had the pleasure of reading (and now reviewing) a book by Dennis Bakke called The Decision Maker. It’s subtitle, “Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time,” is suitable for the context of the story.

It’s a modern-day parable, intended to help the reader extract the messages that will empower everyone in an organization to do whatever it is that they do best, while freeing them up from scenarios that isolate decision makers from those affected by their decisions.

Is the boss really the best decision maker when it comes to decisions that affect line workers? Oftentimes, the answer is a resounding “NO!” But management may have a hard time letting go of the idea that they are responsible for the decision that’s made. And for that reason, they hesitate to let go of the decision itself.

But what if the boss asked a different question? Instead of deciding about safety decisions that affect front-line workers, what if they decided who the best person was to make that decision? They’re not abdicating responsibility for the question. They’re simply allowing someone potentially capable of coming to a better decision about the question (due to passion, proximity or interest) come up with the answer.

As leaders, it’s a important distinction.

It’s where managers become mentors, leaders empower followers, and parents teach children. It’s freeing and exhilarating at the same time. And while there may be catastrophes along the way, the more likely outcome is that better decisions are made and there’s greater “‘buy in” to the outcome.

Let me share an example with you… My 13-year-old son, Tim, has begged for years for me to allow him to get fireworks for the 4th of July. As a single mom, having never played with fireworks and always being warned about their dangers, I’ve been resistant.

Yet this year, instead of simply telling him “no” as I have in the past, I empowered him using the principles laid out in The Decision Maker.

I shared what my concerns were and what questions I needed answers to. I required him to strategize a plan, do research, draw a conclusion, and make a proposal that accounted for my concerns. To do all of that, he needed to get input from others as part of his research.

In the end, Tim got to have his fireworks this year and he loved doing it. But he’d found out the answers to all of the questions I had, and I was alright too. I even enjoyed being able to watch him have so much fun.

What made this outcome even better was that his grandmother, who wasn’t even part of the original discussion, had almost as much fun as Tim did setting them off!

As Decision Maker in the past, I’d always thought she’d agreed with my decisions. After all, many of them were influenced by warnings she’d given me over the years. But letting Tim be Decision Maker, presenting his case, and showing he had the maturity to handle the responsibility allowed us all to celebrate his decision with him.

Given that experience, I’d have to conclude that The Decision Maker is a worthy read, not just for people in traditional organizational structures, but in any body of individuals where decisions must be made, including the home.

What decisions are you holding on to that might best be made by others?

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What People Are Saying

Mauro Pennacchia Jr  |  10 Jul 2013  |  Reply

I’m sorry but your example of having a 13 year old document and strategize setting off fireworks, which are illegal, is a poor example of empowering an employee. It’s like having a criminal lay out his argument, strategy and justification for committing a crime.

To be a decision maker and enable your team to drive solutions also requires a core set of values to know right from wrong. Your example basically trivializes the point if the book and is far too simplistic.

Tara R. Alemany  |  11 Jul 2013  |  Reply

Hi, Mauro. Thanks for your feedback. Just to clarify, where we live, fireworks are not illegal. They’re even sold in the grocery stores. When I was a kid, they were illegal, so many of my own reservations had to do with the same reaction you had.

However, the example wasn’t intended to trivialize the content of the book, but to show that these lessons shouldn’t be restricted to the corporate world. They have applicability in many more situations than simply that of the C-suite cabinet. Many leadership books limit the application to business contexts. Yet we have the ability to teach and use these lessons in our own homes now, where the future leaders of our world can be taught today what it means to accept responsibility and make wise, considered decisions.

After all, we’re looking to grow more character-based leaders here. Being granted the opportunity to practice leadership skills, make decisions, understand the impact and consequences early are all huge things for kids to learn. Unfortunately, they don’t have as many opportunities to do that as I’d like to see. That’s why I choose to include this particular example in my review. It was a timely one for me.

Remove the fireworks and replace the decision with something that you’re more comfortable with. The key take away of my review is, teaching young people to make wise and informed decisions is important, and I was thankful that the book inspired me to see an opportunity with my own son that I’d been missing.

The same methods can be used in any environment, and perhaps you’re more comfortable seeing that in a business setting, I don’t know. As a parent, I see too many kids who feel entitled and who are irresponsible. I’d like to stem that tide of potential trouble by seeing them be given more opportunities to feel of value, to see that they have something worthwhile to contribute. And I don’t believe I’m alone in that.

However, I do apologize if my choice of story made the review less effective or simplistic for you. That wasn’t my intent.

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