Why telling your staff what to do doesn’t work

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Playful childhood. Little children having fun with cardboard box. Children pretending to be on ship


It’s an age-old management style – Boss says. Educator does. It’s called command and control. It’s been the dominant management style for the best part of a century. This method popular in the industrial age has lost all effectiveness as we move into the imagination age.

So what is the Command and Control method?

A simple approach to ”Command and Control” is where the manager sets the task (Command) and then ensures it’s done to the standard required (Control). This method has been a good “go-to” for managers who are trying to get a lot of things done.

However, as the roles of Educators become more cognitive and less physical and the criteria for success moves from ticking boxes to creativity and imagination, we need to find new ways of getting the best out of people.

Employees want to feel empowered by their work. They want freedom and the ability to take ownership and be creative with ideas, solutions and processes that may ultimately make your service better than it was yesterday. For managers, this is an ultimate display of trust, letting go of control and supporting your team to be the best they can be.

Think of your team as a boat in a lake. You want to support and guide them in the right direction, not drag them from in front, where they have little control over the process.

The problem with the command and control method is that Educators feel that they are just simply executing the tasks you set them. There is little room for them to be engaged with the day-to-day running of the service. If you are thinking that your staff might not be as engaged or empowered as they could be – you are right!

When Employees feel that they have no control over their work, they feel micro-managed, they tend to resist the outcomes managers are trying to achieve.

What you see when you use command and control.


  • Staff just come to work and do their job, leave and go home.
  • Staff do the bare minimum as they are scared they will get in trouble for doing things the wrong way.
  • Staff make silly mistakes as they aren’t used to thinking for themselves – they are too busy following your rules!
  • Staff do what they are told but take no initiative.
  • Staff don’t seem to improve or get better.

What you see when you promote autonomy.


  • Staff feel empowered to take initiative and make the service better.
  • Staff feel like they can be creative with the solutions to problems they have identified.
  • Staff feel rewarded for the contributions they make to service.
  • Staff feel wholly committed to executing processes (after all, you let them create it!).
  • Staff feel trusted and accepted for their strengths and weaknesses.


How can I promote autonomy with my Educators?

  • Have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, clear levels of authority, a consistent understanding of, who is responsible for what.
  • Stop telling people what to do. Collaboratively set goals, coach, support and follow up.
  • Sit down with your team and let them decide on when they meet and what they want to discuss. You can create a roster on who organises the agenda for the meeting.
  • Let them decide how they would like to communicate with each other, how they would like to celebrate, how they would like to make decisions.
  • Ask your team to come up with ways they think the outdoor area could be set up differently. Coach and guide them through the process offering insight where you feel it adds value (not detracts)
  • Take the chance to recognise and reward great initiatives delivered by the team. They will respect you for sharing your success and ultimately want to do more for you!
  • Include your team in the hiring process and allow them to have input. Ultimately they will become a better team as your share the responsibility of who is hired and why.
  • Ask more questions and make fewer statements. If they aren’t doing the right thing, ask why? Maybe they don’t know what the right thing they should be doing is! Who knows, they might even have a better idea!


Our In-House Leadership Essentials workshop helps you move your leaders from command and control, to leaders who promote autonomy.