Asking a Question Costs Less Than Having an Answer

Control freaks fear freedom. But treating people like robots never inspires.

Control-freak-leaders deliver narrow results.

Choices inspire ownerships and instill responsibility. Every decision you give someone communicates trust, confidence, and respect.

Respect invites partnership. Disrespect creates disengagement.

Green apples

Every decision you give someone communicates trust, confidence, and respect.

When control freaks thrive:

Control freaks thrive in high control environments.

Narrow instructions enable efficient repetitive work.

Hierarchy is fertile soil for control freaks.   

Strict controls matter during experimentation and testing.

Direction not control:

Courageously give talented people freedom to design strategies, plans, and accountabilities.

Control your control freakiness:

  1. Be open handed with talent and experience. Provide guidelines and boundaries for novices.
  2. Set responsible people free.
  3. Processes need control. Skillful people need goals.
  4. Explain purpose and get out of the way when talented team members demonstrate buy-in.


Control freaks are tempted to tell people HOW to do the job. Define what needs to be done and why it matters.

Talented people flourish when you set them free.

Novices flourish with guidance and control, at least in the beginning.

Hold the seat when teaching children to ride bikes. But get out of the way when dealing with experienced bikers.

You can’t allow people to choose WHAT they do – they have jobs. But whenever possible, let them choose HOW they do what they do.

Tell talent WHAT you want and release qualified people to deliver remarkable results.

Setting direction and asking a question:

“What would you suggest?” is better than, “Do this,” when dealing with talented people.

Personally, I avoid clients who tell me how to do my job. Don’t you? Robert Rosenberg discovered that it’s costly to tell experts what to do. (1:02)

Sometimes not knowing is better than knowing.

What are the limits of freedom in organizational life?

How might leaders extend appropriate freedom to team members?