Is your team waiting for permission instead of taking action?

Phil Morle
2 min readOct 30, 2022

Right now, how many things are not happening because someone is waiting for your permission to move forward?

The rules of a company designed to control quality and safety can become a tax on the impact your team can have.

  • What happens when you are busy? Add up the time between someone being ready to act + you getting back to them + them having time to pick it up again and multiply that by how many times it happens. That’s a lot of time in a year.
  • Is your permission making the outcome better?
  • Are you stopping them do work that makes it better by taking that role for yourself?

You are probably not being explicit

I think most people do this a lot and they do it accidentally. They don’t notice that their team is waiting for permission.

Tune into it for a week and make a ledger of moments where this has happened.

If you see it, here’s how to remove it.

Be explicit with your team. You don’t want to get between them and their actions. You don’t want to give permission. You want them to make the decisions for themselves, think through a plan and execute it to the best of their ability.

Encourage them to communicate their intentions so that others (and you) can build on the idea and watch out for risks.

“I intend to approach Customer X with a 50% discount.”

It gets better with pre-emption

Encourage your team to pre-empt you. Predict what the work needs and deliver it before a permission loop is even initiated.

“I’ve made a list of people we should call to find out X.”

Here’s what happens when you get out of the way

  • You will observe magical moments. You think of something to be done and discover it has already been done.
  • You start to observe ideas and execution much richer than anything you would have thought of.
  • Nothing will break in any meaningful way. There might be the odd cock-up but nothing that can’t be fixed and learned from for next time.
  • Your team will become calibrated. Thinking about the same things with synchronised prioritisation. Dynamically improving each other. Greater than the sum of its parts and massively parallelised.

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Phil Morle

Deep tech VC — Main Sequence Ventures. Ecosystem builder. Maker. Director. Startup Scientist.