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The art of getting out of the way of your talented people

In my first article for TwentyOne Leadership, I shared insights about a manager who significantly impacted my career, highlighting the distinctive qualities that set her apart from others I had worked with. You can read that article here.

I broke down the differences into a list, but to help other leaders, some of them need delving into in more detail.

She was a new hire, she’d never done my job, she knew what I was supposed to deliver. She didn’t know how.

She was clear on outputs. She set clear objectives with timescales for review and completion.

She was vague on how to get things done. She knew who the expert was in the conversation.

All these behaviours find their roots in a powerful philosophy:-

“It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do, We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

So, how do you go about getting out of the way of your team and letting them use their skills, talent and experience to deliver?

Set clear goals; everything that happens should be in service of meeting your key strategic objective. This sounds like a huge jump for your call centre employee or sales floor assistant, but there should be a direct line from what your company has set to achieve and the things people are asked to do.

People thrive when they understand their contributions and purpose.

Know your people; find out about their skills and what motivates them. Just because someone does something really well, it doesn’t mean they won’t relish the challenge of trying something new. There’s also real value in recognising the people who take pride in doing their day to day tasks exceptionally well.

Trust; whether you hired or inherited your team members, they are there for a reason. Allow them the autonomy to perform their jobs while you focus on your responsibilities.

Once you know you’ve clarified outcomes and expectations and set timescales, and when support structures and check-ins have been agreed, you need to step back and let them get on.

If you find yourself thinking about stepping in without being asked:

Remind yourself why you hired that person, or review your notes on their performance record, think back to the conversations you’ve had, and count to 100. You know they know what they’re doing.

Take the opportunity to focus on different priorities, the time you free up letting them use their skills is time you can be used to refine or grow your own.

If you want to work together to develop your leaders to be trustful delegators, get in touch with me at


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