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I Didn’t Approve That

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As a leader, be careful saying “I didn’t approve that.”

I would use that sentence if you want any (or several) of the following outcomes.

  1. A long line outside your office of things you need to “approve”.  No one likes to be undercut by a boss that says “I didn’t approve that.”  The best way to avoid that situation is to ask your boss to approve everything.
  2. You want to spend your time in the weeds and find micromanaging small decisions to be rewarding, impactful, and value creating.
  3. Creating an organization that is autocratic and not scalable.  See the part above about needing to approve everything and being in the weeds.
  4. Creating a closed and unquestioning culture.  Because the words, “X approved this” will be equated to don’t bother questioning this decision, even if it’s unclear if “X” actually approved it or there are other aspects of the decision that should be considered.
  5. To make decision making political.  You teach employees that to get to the desired decision, all you need to do is convince “X’ that it is a good decision.  No consensus building required. Actually, it is a game best played in private since a group setting might accidentally offer up a counterpoint that would work against your desired outcome.
  6. Demonstrating to your employees that they are not empowered and you don’t trust their judgement.  This has the additional benefit of driving employees who like to feel empowered and make decisions out of your business.  Yay, talk about win-win.

So, the next your team brings you something you weren’t aware of, I highly encourage you to shout “I didn’t approve that” in an emotional outburst. Sarcasm included at no additional cost…