R.E.S.P.E.C.T. The key ingredients to co-delivering and sharing decision-making power

CakeWith a lot of tasks, you, and just you, are personally responsible.  You find out what is required and then get on with it.

Even if you are in charge of a team you are delegating to, you obviously want to engage and involve them, but ultimately the final say goes to you.  The buck stops there, so to speak.

So what about when you aren’t flying solo?  When you have to share your piece of the cake?  When you are no longer the lone kingpin?   What would happen if you had to share the ultimate responsibility for that final decision?  Well, that really does require a different approach.

The interesting thing about sharing ultimate decision-making responsibility with another person is that it can throw up all sorts of interesting dynamics.  How do you divide up that division of power, deciding who does what?  What happens, when God forbid, you reach an impasse and don’t agree?  In a genuine power share, pulling rank isn’t an option.  What you need, to quote good old Aretha Franklin, is a little r.e.s.p.e.c.t!

Respect. It’s an obvious one, but hey, you can’t start an acronym called respect without getting the word in itself!  In all seriousness, respect is absolutely essential if you are going to share power with someone.  It will all fall down and go horribly wrong if you don’t.  It can’t be faked either, so if it’s not naturally there you better go dig deep and find it!

Explore each other’s opinions.  Know what angle the other person is coming from. Take time to really listen to their viewpoint.  At the end of the day you both have responsibility for delivering and the end product should be a fair reflection of both parties and even better for it.

Support one another.  They say it can be lonely at the top, but not any more if you approach it right.  Chances are you are working with tight deadlines, tough decisions and a lot of demands on your time and attention.  Use each other to help get through the bad days and the lows, but also come together to celebrate the highs – the good days, the breakthroughs and the moments when you think “this might actually turn out ok!”

Passion for what you are doing.  There is a reason why you are working together and if you both feel strongly about what you are doing it will enable you to pull together in the same direction even harder.  It also means that when you don’t agree it will put into context the other’s viewpoint – you will know it is coming from a good place as ultimately you both want the same thing.

Establish the end goalThis may seem an obvious one, but it is absolutely critical that you have a clear shared understanding of what your end point is.  Without that we venture back into the territory of “all going horribly wrong”.  In addition, make sure you both understand why you are doing what you are doing, as even a different take on this can result in lack of alignment of approach to the decisions being made.

Clear division of responsibility.  This is a power-share so make sure you both have a good understanding of what that looks like.  If the word ‘respect’ had another ‘T’ I’d also add in the word ‘trust’ but as I am linguistically constrained I’m going to put it here.  So, decide which tasks and decisions you are sharing, and which you are dividing up.  For those tasks you divide up, clearly agree what responsibilities go with it and then trust you partner to get on with it.  Step back and let go. Remember, you trust them.

Take time out.  Have fun and play.  It can be pretty tough at the top and the chances are that whenever you and your co-deliver get together you’ll end up talking shop.  There will always be something to discuss, another crisis to fix, another milestone to plan for.  STOP. Take time out to reconnect, talk nonsense, gossip if need be, but just go do something else and put the weight of responsibility to one side for a moment and reconnect.


This blog is inspired by and dedicated to my fellow ABP Conference Dean, Dilip Boury.  Organising the 2013 Annual Association of Business Psychologists Conference is a hell of a task we have taken on but, but I’m glad that we took it on together.  We’ve come so far, we’ve still got a long way to go, but hey here is to enthusiasm over adversity!


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