Should You Ever Let Your Employees Make Game Changing Decisions?

Posted on January 7, 2013.

I’ve been a Redskin fan a long time, so for me, yesterday was just heartbreaking. The question on many people’s mind is why was our quarterback, rookie RGIII, allowed to continue to play with an obviously weakened, injured knee? According to the Washington Post, it was coach Shanahan’s decision. But if you read the article, it sounds like he let the 22-year-old rookie make the call. Is it ever right to let your employees make game changing decisions?

In the case of RG III, I’m sure he made a compelling argument and assured the coach he was okay and that he deserved to be there. As a coach or a manager, this is one of the hardest dilemmas you may face.  Do you do the right thing for the employee or the right thing for the team? You don’t have to follow sports to see similar situations play out in your workplace. Here’s a couple of scenarios you may have encountered:

Scenario 1. This actually happened to me. If you manage a large sales team, it’s not uncommon for someone to source a lead that is too complex for their level of experience. You know if you give the lead to a more experienced person, you’ve ticked off the resourceful, but less experienced employee.  If you don’t give it to someone who has the ability to close the deal, you may lose it.  I felt the pain that I’m sure Shanahan faced yesterday and when this happened to me, I let the younger, inexperienced salesman take the lead. Needless to say, we didn’t win, weren’t even close. Since that time, I’ve always made the tough decision. It never got easy, but we won a lot more often.

Scenario 2.  If you don’t manage a sales team, you may face a similar dilemma if you’re running a project and someone comes to you with a great idea. He or she begs you to let them lead the project. After all, it was their idea. But you know they lack the experience to execute it.  You have to put someone on point that has the ability to see the project through completion, no matter what the fallout is to the idea generator. You can always find them a significant role and assure them that they will receive credit for the idea. But you can’t risk everything because someone begs you and assures you they can do something, you know they can’t.

Managers, leaders, and coaches get paid to make the tough decisions. Sometimes that means disappointing people.  As Colin Powell says, “Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group”, not to any one individual. “  I can’t put myself in Shanahan’s shoes, and who’s to say the Redskins would have lost even if RGIII had been pulled. But I would feel a lot better about Shanahan as a coach and leader if he hadn’t let his 22 year old rookie quarterback appear to make the decision for the team.