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I’m In Control!

Written by: Paul A. Raggio, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Al Haig, Secretary of State and member of the Reagan Administration, erroneously asserted he was in control after the attempted President Reagan assassination. His statement caused a minor uproar among the pols because it bypassed the constitutionally defined succession from the president to the vice president, speaker of the house, president pro tempore of the Senate, and then to cabinet secretaries. Later, he clarified his statement to mean he was functionally in control of the government. Also, not a valid declaration but is most undoubtedly confusing. His statements created chaos in the aftermath of the assassination attempt until constitutional scholars and legislators challenged his statements and clarified how presidential authority is successively passed.

Many significant and recent news headlines are emerging from Congress, the Supreme Court, the administration, and state legislatures, and they center on authority; moral, government, legal, positional, and personal. When I was a provost marshal, equivalent to a chief of police, I spent a lot of time discussing authority with my military police officers and their limitations in exercising it. And when I was leading multiple security companies as a business unit president, I always sought clarification from our government client on contract authority…what authority my employees had in carrying out their services.


In business, authority means who decides and how the company commits to fulfilling its decision. No one working for a company is absent authority. No one. If they are on the payroll, they have some authority, albeit in many cases, minimal. A receptionist has the authority to receive and redirect calls to appropriate parties. A machinist has the authority to make a part necessary for product assembly. A salesperson has the authority to engage a prospective client and close a deal. Undoubtedly, authority limitations are imposed, explicitly or implicitly, that the receptionist, machinist, and salesperson follow.


Surprisingly, many companies don’t define authority, and this lack of definition creates a drag on productivity and a strain on morale. Imagine the bottlenecks created if the receptionist had to ask someone else where to direct a call every time the phone rang. Or if the machinist had to ask whether he could assemble the engine part instead of just doing it. What about if the salesperson had to take time and ask whether she could close the deal with an interested party inconveniencing the anxious buyer.


Clarifying levels of authority and documenting them is essential to good company governance. Doing so creates productivity velocity by enhancing decision-making, minimizing the risk of people without decision-making authority binding the company, and establishing accountability throughout the organizational stratifications. Bottlenecks disappear, and employees know what they can decide and are accountable to and for their work activity.


Scaled organizations with multiple layers of management create matrixes defining each management level of authority, from the most junior manager to the CEO and board of directors. Authority is codified in the organizational diagrams and governance documents, captured in job postings, offer letters and descriptions, and clarified during the interview, hiring, and onboarding processes.


Metaphorically, chaos is the devil’s work in an organization. Chaos creates confusion and division among the workforce, and ill-defined levels of authority are the origins of the chaos. How often have you heard a supervisor ask who is responsible for this mistake, and no one states accountability? Or when a team member is surprised when told she has the authority to decide? How do you eliminate chaos and create harmony and unity? Define authority, fix responsibility, and hold team members accountable. If authority is defined and responsibility fixed, there will never be a question of who is accountable.


Al Haig’s remark, “I’m in control,” caused chaos at a critical time for our Nation. However, the chaos he created was soon contained because the delegation of authority was constitutionally documented and clear. So too, should the authority levels be recorded and clarified in your company. Contain the chaos and create productivity velocity by assigning the authority who decides, always considering how their decision may impact the company. This is how you lead, think, plan, and act. Now, let’s get after it!


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Paul welcomes your comments and feedback and please contact him at praggio64@gmail.com.


 

Paul A. Raggio, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Paul Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North Executive Development, a service-disabled, veteran-owned, family-operated leadership and management development firm in Los Angeles, California. He is an AddingZEROS executive facilitator and certified executive business coach and develops c-suite leaders, business owners, and their employees on leadership and management principles in achieving and sustaining their business growth and profitability goals. Paul and his sister were the 2020 Rookie of the Year for the ActionCOACH Southwest Region, the 2021 Rising Star Awardee for the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, and the best Business Consultant of 2021 by The Santa Clarita Valley Signal. He brings over forty years of leadership, business, and personal development experience to executives and business owners.

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