Give It Up. Start Small and Provide Guardrails

Transitioning People Through Constant Change

In this series of posts I am exploring the Give It Up model in which we move away from the command and control of manager to the delegation and trust of true leaders. 


Start small

When leaders are giving up the command and control approach, they don't have to give it all up at once. Giving up can be hard for many. Leaders shouldn’t try to eat the elephant in one go. They should eat it in bite size pieces.

They should look for an initiative or project that is within their scope of control and decide to let go. They give up control, and set clear goals and objectives. They provide guiding principles or guardrails and step back. Leaders trust their employees to do the right thing knowing that if they need them, they can call on them. If that goes well, leaders can leverage the experience and do more of the same. If it didn't go too well, they can identify what went wrong and how to avoid the same mistakes next time. They use it as a learning experience and not one to beat themselves up about.

After each experience, they seek feedback from those people working on the initiative or project, and take on board what worked and what didn't.


In relation to giving up a command and control approach, guardrails are essential not only for the employee but also for the leader. The guardrails or principles allow the leader to let go without losing control. Instead of making the decisions for others, leaders create guardrails, which enable employees to make decisions for themselves. These guardrails empower decision-making often where the decision is best placed to be made.

The leader knows that the employee has guidance and parameters within which to navigate. 

guardrails copy.jpg

A flock of birds has one objective: to reach their breeding ground. That means they need to do three essential things: find food, stay on course, and stay alive. These are their guardrails. They don't have a manager bird telling them where to go and when. For the flock, they have guardrails, which guide them in regards to the actions to take.

Just like the flock of birds, employees have guardrails that provide them with autonomy to make decisions and a model that helps them stay on the road.

I have already talked about Google’s nine core principles of innovation. These principles are the guardrails for all Google employees.

Amazon has a set of leadership principles by which all employees operate: 

‘Our Leadership Principles aren't inspirational wall hanging. These Principles work hard, just like we do. Amazonians use them every day, whether they're discussing ideas for new projects, deciding on the best solution for a customer's problem or interviewing candidates.’[i]

There are 14 Amazon leadership principles:

1.     Customer obsession

2.     Ownership

3.     Invent and simplify

4.     Are right, a lot

5.     Learn and be curious

6.     Hire and develop the best

7.     Insist on the highest standards

8.     Think big

9.     Bias for action

10.  Frugality

11.  Earn trust

12.  Dive deep

13.  Have backbone, disagree, and commit

14.  Deliver results.

These are 14 guardrails that keep everyone on the road and moving in the same direction.

Game score

Winning teams don’t do great things because they were told to. They have the power to make great things happen. They are free to experiment, create and innovate.

In subsequent posts in this series I will be exploring the additional elements of the Give It Up model.


Karen FerrisComment