Palm Tree or Fir Tree? What’s Your Decision Tree?

Decision TreeOne of the hardest lessons I’ve learned as a leader is embodied in the Big 6 principle, “Trust and Empower.” It wasn’t that I didn’t want to empower others; yet, I always seemed to drift back into being more controlling.

And, throughout my career, I had to continuously step back and try to see myself honestly. It was a continuous struggle.

There’s an old adage about the “3 Yous.” There’s the “You” you think you are, the “You” others think you are, and the real “You.” As servant leaders, we have to reconcile these three people into one. I don’t think most of us will ever succeed in merging the three into one fully synchronized “You”, but we’ve got to be aware of the challenge and address it.

Decision treeSo how do we get at this challenge?

One technique I’ve seen that really helps reconcile the 3 people you are as a leader is to establish a Decision Tree. Basically, it’s a tool where you force the issue of who in your organization decides what.

Next time you’re on a long plane flight or a boring meeting, start writing out which decisions you want to make, which ones you’d like your boss to make, and which ones you want your direct reports to make. You’re starting to build the tree. Keep going up and down in the organization.

Does the tree look like a palm tree or a fir tree?

If it’s more like the latter than the former, you’re in a healthy organization with a strong culture. If not, time to get to it and fix this problem. And if you’re at the top of the tree, it’s also time to set the example and right size the tree. Break out of the over-controlling leadership mindset you’re in and start empowering your team.

Ask them for help. You can start by employing a Culture Survey; we have a great one if you’re interested. Administer it and then develop and implement an action plan to address the results by changing the decision-making process where change is needed.

Then, you’ll see the tree start to take the shape of a fir. People will feel empowered, and you can focus on strategic decisions to keep your team on the right azimuth. You’ll also be reconciling the “3 Yous” in the process – becoming more of a leader who walks the talk.


Enjoy the journey!