Why does your team still ask for your permission?

Discover why that can be a bad thing and what you could do instead. There is a way to change this pattern to challenge your people and help them grow as a team.

The Surdek Team
September 19, 2022
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A while ago, we shared an article on the blog about what your leadership game is and how it influences the people around you.

As a quick refresher, your leadership game is about the behaviours and thought processes behind your leadership. As a leader, what words do you use and how do you act?

It is also about what your leadership creates. How does your team react in your interactions? Sometimes as a leader, your actions train your employees to act in certain ways.

In this article, we will talk about why it may not be a good thing for your team to ask for your permission and what you could be doing instead.

What asking for permission creates

What you may not realize is that your team may be asking for your permission without you even realizing it. They may not use those exact words, but they are in fact seeking your approval.

One thing to look out for is when your team comes to see you to propose a new idea. They may actually be asking you permission to take action in an informal way.

This can be very subtle. When you say something like “great idea, do it!” even for the smallest task, they will come back and ask you again before taking another initiative.

What you should do instead

The moral of the story is that you should make the decision sandbox of your employees clear to them. What are the areas where they can decide on their own? What are the areas where you want them to involve you in the decision?

When in the back of your mind you are wondering why they seem to need you to approve something, ask them why. Better yet, ask them what they are expecting from you.

When you find yourself in such a situation, you can ask them something like: “Wait a second, I have a question. What do you need from me in this conversation? Do you need me to approve something? Do you want to bounce an idea off me and get my opinion? Do you want to inform me of what you are about to do?”

Having this clarity up front will help you to know how to respond and how to guide them. It may take discipline on your part if they want to inform you and you want to override them but that is another conversation for another time!

How to change the pattern

We all tell ourselves stories in our heads. Stories about how we perceive a situation or how we perceive ourselves. These stories feed our spirits in very different ways.

Some of them make us feel warm, fuzzy and confident while others completely disempower us. As with choosing how a situation occurs to us, you can also choose the stories you tell yourself.

When talking to your employees or colleagues you may notice they are forgetting their gifts and are telling themselves stories that disempower them. Some may even tell you stories about their glory days and the great things they accomplished in the past. In the same breath, these same people will also tell you about how they feel so lost now.

As a leader, what you want to do is to help them see the stories they are telling themselves. You can do this by focusing the discussions around tangible and verifiable facts. You can also do this by challenging their stories and elevating the conversation to speak about the real facts.


Leaders sometimes forget it is part of their responsibility to challenge their people and help them grow. It is important though to not fall into the trap of getting them to ask for your permission to do so.

Allow them to take decisions that will make them more confident in their abilities. Remind them of their unique skills and talents. Help them see the stories they are telling themselves and change them to something that is more empowering.

Remind them of their gifts and change their stories. That is how you will co-create your success together as a team!

This week, try to notice if and when your team asks for your permission. How can you empower them instead?