Empower Your Team To Make Decisions

“Keep Your Eye On The Waterline”

During a recent CEO Group meeting, Salem Thyne of EVA shared with us an idea that he learned from his time in the US Navy that he uses to empower his team to make their own decisions. It’s called “keeping an eye on the waterline” and I think this can help you too.

The idea is that in a boat, any issues that affect us above the waterline are not a big deal, but if something pokes a hole in the side of the boat under the waterline, we will spend a lot of effort bailing out water or eventually sink.

He tells his team that they are free to make decisions and take action on issues that are above the waterline so they can act decisively and get more done.  Additionally, he also expects them to consult him on issues that are below the waterline.  This frees up his team to act quickly and keeps him from getting involved in issues that take him away from other things only he can do.

REF Dallas Waterline

We follow this principle for our team here in DFW.  This is our waterline for 2023 and everyone has a copy of it and we refer to it each week as we make plans.  Ours is made up of our Purpose, Mission, Vision, Values, Policies and Goals for the year.  You can use whatever you feel will empower your teams to lead with excellence and take ownership in the day to day decisions. 

You can use this concept with your employees and even your family members.  The important part is to make sure they understand where the waterline is.  If we are not clear about the values we follow, the purpose and vision, their role and responsibility, and the policies and procedures we have to keep us in check, they will not know where the waterline is.  

Without establishing the waterline, your team will keep coming back to ask for clarity and keeping depending on you to make decisions.  It can also lead them to make decisions beyond their scope of knowledge and authority, and that can lead to disastrous consequences.  If we want to set up our employees to win we must take the time to provide Clear and Compelling Communication, the Tools and Training to do the job right, and then create an environment where we are all Accountable to the same standard of excellence.

Creating a waterline for your team will allow your employees to feel confident to make timely decisions, and to stay engaged in the efforts to reach our team goals.  This will also free you up to focus on the most important aspects of your role as a CEO or business owner.  Do this right and you’ll have a team that is sailing smoothly.

Need help with this, contact me today.

Robert Hunt

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