In corporate circles, there’s a phenomenon known as the last mile.
This problem was initially identified in the telecommunications industry, and it was this: How can you get a signal to the end of the line that’s as strong as it is at the beginning.
This is especially true today with internet connections. The further you get from the source, the lower the bandwidth.
That’s why some wifi networks require a booster. The signal peters out after a certain distance.
This problem can be seen in other business areas, too.
How can you squeeze the last bit of profit out of your market?
What changes do you need to make so that your company’s effectiveness reaches to the last mile or the least important customer?
One factor that seems to lie at the root of the problem is in decision-making.
Senior executives want frontline leaders to decide what to do next rather than await instructions from their supervisors.
But, the real question is not how can you do this, but rather why isn’t it happening?
What is it about the organization that’s preventing frontline leaders from making the decisions that senior leadership thinks they should?
The answer is fear. Frontline leaders are too frightened. Here are five fears that could contribute to their inaction.
Fear that if they do, they’ll get their hand slapped
The easiest way to determine if this is a problem in your company is to look at the company’s track record.
What does it normally do when frontline leaders make decisions that are beyond their authority?
How has it treated people who have done so in the past?
Fear that the company won’t back them if they make a mistake
Does this sound familiar? “We’ll back you 100%. Just make sure that you’re right!”
Do you know what the most effective way to make sure you’re right? It’s by not taking any chances.
In other words, it’s by waiting for instructions from your supervisor.
Fear of stepping outside of their job description
How does your company feel about frontline managers who ignore the chain of command?
A lack of clarity can cause people to play it safe.
Fear of making decisions they were never trained to make
Does your company believe that “It’s easier to ask forgiveness, than to ask permission”?
Or do you say one thing, but mean something else?
Fear that they lack the information to make a good decision
Far too many supervisors still believe that information is power, and that by keeping it to themselves, they can enhance their power
The question that must be asked then is, “How will your company remove these fears?”
From this day forward, what will it do differently?
You get the behavior that you reinforce. What behavior is your company reinforcing?
Is it “Watch your step. We don’t tolerate indecision or wrong decisions”?
However you look at it, if frontline leaders aren’t making the decisions that you want them to make, then it’s probably because they’re scared stiff to do anything at all.
And so, like a rabbit in the headlights, they do nothing, because they simply don’t know which way to turn.