How do I get my staff to take on more autonomy?

Dear Aunty B,

I have always believed that if someone is given a job, then they should be totally responsible for it. That gives them a good sense of autonomy, they take full responsibility for the job and we get to focus on the bigger goals and our vision.

You yourself Aunty have said in your esteemed column that business owners are often bad delegators and they need to learn to trust their people. But I have just had some uncomfortable feedback that the staff hate this. In particular, they hate it when I tell them to do something and then when they stuff it up, tell them how it should have been done differently. This to me is a good way for them to learn. How do I get them to take on more autonomy?


Dear EB,

Are you nuts? You, my friend, are like many entrepreneurs: you are so busy running to the next big idea you never explain anything properly and why should you? Your staff should be able to read your mind! I bet you are the type that doesn’t bother putting on his blinker because he thinks the driver behind should KNOW where he is going.

You also assume that everyone is like you: alpha male, supremely competent master of the universe who knows how to do everything.

But think of this: if you know how to do something why on earth wouldn’t you give your staff a few clues and save them the stuff up? Also, when you direct them this way, you show them what you really mean. That way they don’t have to second-guess you.

Alternatively you could have a back up person. Entrepreneurs often have these. They are usually poor brow beaten individuals who trail after the glorious entrepreneur and translate their thoughts into words that everyone can understand.

There is another reason for doing it: you will all get on better.

Entrepreneur Neil Tilley, who built the $100 million Upstream Solutions has a theory: “My theory is that if we all get along 10% or 20% better than your average organisation, that’s a huge competitive advantage for us.”

Good luck!

Your Aunty B


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