You tell Mark (your employee) the size of the whiteboard you want, provide him with a “rough budget” of $300, and you ask him to “take care of it.”
A few weeks later, the new whiteboard arrives on a delivery truck along with the bill. You see that the whiteboard is higher quality than you expected, but it also cost $75 more than you thought it should. And, at $325, it somewhat exceeded the rough budget figure. You know that the whiteboard at the big box store was only $225 and that Mark could have picked it up the same day with a small mileage claim. You got your whiteboard, but it took too long and it cost more than you wanted to spend.
What do you do? Do you point out to Mark what he should have done differently? Do you overrule Mark’s decision and ask him to send the board back? Or do you say nothing and move on?
The solution to this problem comes from the teachings of accomplished leadership trainer Linton Sellen. Sellen points out a few things to think about when delegating:
In this specific case, the mistake – if there was one – was the supervisor’s. If the supervisor wanted a specific whiteboard from a specific vendor, that is what he or she should have told Mark. In this whiteboard scenario, the supervisor gave general direction and a rough budget, thereby leaving the specific decisions to Mark.
When we delegate with good instructions and information, we have to accept the decisions our people make. Mark chose a delivered, high-quality whiteboard in modest excess of an imprecise budget. His decisions were valid, even if they weren’t the decisions the supervisor would have made. Criticizing Mark for this is a recipe for demotivating him and reducing his willingness to take on future responsibilities.