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Taking Action and Driving Decisions

What's the Problem?

It's hard to get anything done without fuel. Just as your smartphone fails to deliver if its battery is dead, you can't deliver if you don't have the fuel—if you're not empowered to take action and drive decisions. But we are frequently up against red tape that prevents us from taking action and driving decisions, and the feeling of being blocked or constrained can easily drain our energy and make us feel like giving up or blaming others.

On the other hand, we know there is too much at stake—not only for you, but for your manager and the organization at large—to simply be resigned to inaction. Too many people are depending on you, and yet you may feel disempowered. The only way to overcome this feeling is to change your perception and adopt an empowered mindset.

I define empowerment as "a reasonable degree of autonomy to take action and drive decisions." Empowerment that is not effective can severely limit an individual's impact, while empowering someone who has questionable competence or judgment could prove disastrous.

When we feel disempowered, our first instinct is to blame our supervisor or manager, to whom we report. I like to use the broader term team leader, whether it's your actual manager or a more indirect, somewhat temporary leader you work with.

Have you ever complained about your "boss"? Some people make it an art form. I can recall a colleague years ago who had a dartboard with a picture of the CEO in the middle of it. Fortunately, they were only darts on a dartboard. But could we be part of the problem?

Most people periodically do have serious issues with the person to whom they report. You can come in genuinely excited about a new idea, only to hear that now is not the time. Or you might feel an undercurrent of negative judgment, leading you to question where you stand with this individual who can help or harm you and your aspirations. It can take years to heal after working for a manager who lost confidence in one's ability to succeed. Some never recover. This can be truly frustrating. It can derail one's career.

For Seinfeld fans, perhaps you saw the episode in which George misses a key word his manager (yes, he worked briefly) mentions when asking him to take on a new project. Of course George can't simply ask his manager to repeat that one word he missed. So he goes through the entire episode perplexed as to what he's supposed to accomplish, but acting as though he did understand. Have you ever experienced that?

You may also feel that you're "supposed to know." By having to ask, you might telegraph that you're too junior for that position, or not smart enough, that more-senior people would surely know. Having worked behind the scenes with countless executives, I can assure you that many if not most of them periodically would love to ask their boss, "So tell me exactly, what do you want?"

But is it all on your team leader if this key relationship is less than stellar? Do you as a team member have a responsibility in this? George in that Seinfeld episode certainly did. He chose not to take the risk of simply asking his manager to repeat that missing word. Can you imagine trying to manage someone like George? Just considering that for a moment brought a smile to my face.

The key is that an empowered mindset is more like an empowered relationship. It's a two-way street, encompassing a dynamic relationship between a specific team leader and team member that is unique to each pair and changes over time. This relationship produces a level of trust between the two people that, for good or for bad, determines the degree of empowerment the team member will experience.

There is no policy, company dictate, or truism that can drive the trust in this relationship. It has to be built and earned by the two players involved. Spoiler alert: in this book you will learn the key skills that will lay out for you how to make this relationship dramatically more successful and less frustrating.


For those of you who have been promoted to management, you inevitably still report to someone one step above you. So you have two problems. First, you have to deal with the ever-present issues with your team leader. But second, you have to deal with the people reporting to you as well. Let's refer to them as team members (you may know them as "direct reports"). And with each team member, you have a unique empowered relationship.

It's hard to determine to what extent you ought to let go in any situation. If you don't let go enough, you may become the bottleneck, slowing progress to a halt. Let go too much and you never know what's going to happen—you've lost control and influence. Finding that sweet spot for that specific team member, situation, and moment in time is daunting. This occurs throughout an entire organization, every day, at every level.


Introduction: The Impact Challenge

1. Taking Action and Driving Decisions: What's the Problem?
2. The Empowered Mindset: How to Be More Empowering
3. The Empowered Mindset: How to Be More Empowerable
4. Choosing to Do the Right Thing for Your 'Real' Team: What's the Problem?
5. The Alignment Mindset: How to Choose to Do the Right Thing for Your 'Real' Team

6. Partnering in and Across Teams: What's the Problem?
7. The Collaboration Mindset: How to Partner in and Across Teams to Achieve Goals
8. Assessments and Your Impact Score: How to Determine Your Impact Score, for Yourself and Your Organization
9. Making It Real: How to Turn Insights into Action
10. Dealing with Tough Challenges and Situations
11. A Final Message

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