Don’t Hold Your People Back

When you have learned or read something new, what do you do with it? Do you take action on it or do nothing?

If you really want things to happen for you and your team, you must first discuss what you have learned with them. Debate how you can implement what you have learned. When a decision has been made, empower the team to drive these new insights and actions forward.

Do this for the good of you, the good of the team, and the good of the organisation.

As you have read in my other articles, we have been focussing on you and what you can do to become a highly effective leader. But, I have also said that leadership is not about you, but it starts with you. So, who is leadership about, if it’s not about you?

1. Who Is Leadership About?

Leadership is about you empowering and releasing your team, so they can improve their performance and improve themselves.

Highly effective leaders are confident enough to empower their teams to improve. However, an insecure leader will hold their teams back. Insecure leaders will focus on getting the job done. They manage things and processes. They do not focus on leading the team or even themselves at all.


The only way your team will improve in their performance, and themselves is if you lead them well. You must open them up to these new opportunities. However, for you to be able to do that, you must be able to lead yourself just as well first.

Have you ever noticed what low performing leaders focus on when they talk to you? They focus on what they aren’t able to do. Whether that’s because they don’t have the resources, they physically aren’t able or whatever. There is always some excuse.

But, the reason they focus on what they can’t do instead of what they can do, is so that everyone knows about it. When everyone knows about what they can’t do, then they are free to not do anything. Now there are no expectations of them to actually do anything.

Low performing leaders will never discuss with you or anyone else the things that they, or even the team can do. Why do they do this? They do this so nobody knows about what they can do.

So, there will be no expectations on them to do those things. So again, they are free not to do anything. They just want an easy life and get through the day.

2. What Is A Highly Effective Leader’s Focus?

For a highly effective leader, they do the exact opposite. They focus on the things they can do rather than the things they can’t do. To a highly effective leader, focussing on the things you can’t do is a complete waste of time and energy. They can’t do it, so why talk about it?

A highly effective leader wants to get things done through the team. You will never hear a highly effective leader ask “Can I?” You will always hear them ask “How can I?”

As you’re reading this article and you’re taking in the principles I am sharing, are you are wondering “Am I allowed, or, am I able to do what Tom is saying?” In other words “Can I?” If you are, then try to remove those thoughts and questions from your head.

Then, replace them with “How can I do what Tom is saying?” Think of ways that you can apply these principles. Think of any obstacles that might be in your way, and how you can remove them.

A highly effective leader empowers their team and releases them to achieve their potential. However, they must first empower themselves and release themselves to achieve their full potential. That is what you must do.

These principles will not just work for you as a manager or with your team, they will work in all areas of your life. That can be at work, home, with your family and friends, or with anything else that is in your life.

With ALL the bosses I’ve ever worked with, they have always delegated their tasks in exactly the same way. If there was a new task that they would like me to do, they would always start with “Tom, can you?” Or “Tom, will you?” By doing that, they are putting doubt in my head that they might not think I can do the task.

So, sometimes I would say “No I can’t.” Not because I didn’t want to, but because they made me feel that it might be too difficult. When you ask a question that starts with “Can you?” your team will pick up on that, and you will put doubt in their head too.

3. How To Ask The Right Kind Of Questions?

So, try this “How can you?” or “How will you?” and see the reaction, your team will jump at the task. They are open questions, so you will draw up discussion between the two of you. With more discussion, you can increase your influence, and it is an opportunity for them to increase their thinking.

When asking your team “How can you?” it will remove any doubt from their head that they think you have about them. So, they will be a lot more positive about the task, and a lot more enthusiastic to get it done for you. It gives them the opportunity to figure out how to complete the task themselves, rather than you tell them how to do it.

Keep asking those open questions as that will encourage them to think deeper, and work out the best possible solutions themselves. If you do this with everyone, then just watch the buy-in increase.

Your new method of working on tasks and how to find solutions will be embraced by the whole team. Your new method will give the team the ownership and responsibility that they crave. This is how you empower your team.

If you are gaining some good ideas and insights from my articles, and you are committed to working on yourself to become a highly effective leader, then that is amazing. So, I’d like you to go through an exercise for me.

I’m just over 60 articles through on this website, so it is a good time to reflect on what we have discovered and learned so far.

4. Exercise To Work On Yourself And Your Team

If you are not committed to working on yourself to become a highly effective leader then you can leave this article, this exercise is not for you. For the committed ones, I want you to be deliberate with your personal growth. I want you to invest some time and effort into working on and improving yourself. So, let’s reflect.

I would like you to think about “How?”

It’s time for you to focus on your team. How can you empower and release them to perform at their best? How can you empower and release them to reach their full potential? How can you empower and release them to be the best person they can be?

But, think about yourself too. How can you empower and release yourself to perform at your best? How can you empower and release yourself to reach your full potential? How can you empower and release yourself to be the best person and leader you can be?

I would like you to take on the following challenge:

Get yourself a pen and paper, or a laptop, or your mobile phone. Start from the beginning and go through the other articles that you have read, or the videos you have watched. As you are reviewing each article or video, ask yourself the following question:

How can I apply the principles in this article/video, so I can reach my potential and strive to become a highly effective leader?

List 1 to 3 ways you can do this for each article/video.


When you have answered this question with 1 to 3 solutions for each article/video, think about the “why.” What are the reasons you must do these tasks you have listed? Write those reasons down too.

Then think about the “what”. What will happen when you do apply these principles? What will change? What will change for the team? What will change for you?

Finally, it is time to put what you’ve written down into action. TAKE ACTION on your solutions. Do not wait for the right time. The right time is NOW! So, DO IT!

Saying thank you to your team or giving them praise for doing a good job is essential. If one of your team members does something great and they go the extra mile to do it, and you don’t praise them, how are they going to feel?

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

Check out my other articles by Clicking HERE

All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

16 thoughts on “Don’t Hold Your People Back

  1. Nice! You had me at the title of the article. I literally related to it and asked myself the question at a personal level. Teamwork is an important thing and coordinating and trusting yourself to lead needs some guidance and you are giving us the tips. Thank you

    1. Hi Rackim,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you related to the article and the title, it’s great to hear.

      You are absolutely right, teamwork is very important and trusting others and yourself. I’m glad that my tips are helping you, and if you need anymore help then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,


  2. Hi Tom
    Thanks for another thought-provoking article and congratulations on reaching the 60 article milestone. This made me think of a time when I came back to work after attending a week-long leadership course. One of the key pieces of reference material that had been used for the course was Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I read it and thought it was such a great book and could really help my direct reports, not only because we were a dysfunctional team and there was a lack of trust, but each of them was a leader of a large team, often managing 100 staff or more. So I decided I was going to give each of them, (I had five direct reports back then) a copy of the book. I realized what I thought had been my presumptuous mistake a few weeks later when one of my guys said in casual conversation that if there was one thing he really hated doing in his spare time it was reading a book. So that was a bit of a knockback. Nevertheless, I continued as best I could to work on the substance of what the book suggested – which was to do what I could to bring the latent conflict to the surface and create an environment where people could bring their grievances with each other to the team meetings and discuss them openly. Yes, it took a lot of time. That was about ten years ago now. I still have many of the same direct reports and a few more for good measure. But when I think back now to how things have changed, as a team now there is a lot more collaboration and a lot more focus on getting things done. And most of this was about liberating them, empowering them to take initiatives and reach across to each other without having to go through me all the time.
    As I say, this is a very thought-provoking article.
    Best regards

    1. Hi Andy,

      Thank you for your very thorough article and putting in the effort to do this. I’m so pleased that you found the article thought provoking, that was my aim. In fact it is my aim for all my articles.

      Thank you for sharing your experience of attending your leadership course. Hopefully when people read through these comments that they learn a lot from you too, just as I am.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,


  3. Just one word, “how”, but what a difference it makes! There is a huge difference between “can you” and “how can you”. The first implies indeed doubt which is reflected on the one you’re asking.
    My boss usually starts his questions with “can you …?” in such a serious tone that I often end up thinking “uh oh, what is he expecting of me now?” Now that I read your article it makes even more sense to me why I react like that.
    Although praise was an uncommon thing at my workplace in the past it has improved over the last years and that also makes a huge difference in employees’ morale.
    Great article, I should show it to my boss 😉

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found the word “how” in our questions as powerful.

      I too have bosses who always ask”Can you…?” and it does make you feel negative. However, when I tried asking questions of my team starting with “How can you…?” they were surprised at first, but it does help. Now, I never ask “Can you…?”, I always ask “How can you…?”

      I would love for you to share this article with your boss, and it would be great to see what he/she thinks 🙂

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,


  4. Hi Tom,

    What an inspiring article regarding leadership. I have had a manager in the past who had the title as a manager, but who didn’t necessarily lead his team. He was very individualist, and only cared about getting his tasks done (not saying he was a bad person, he was actually very kind and funny!). I guess being an effective leader is about changing our perception of how to get things done + putting importance on teamwork. All the principles you have discussed can also relate on how we can achieve our own goals in life. Loved your article!

    1. Hi Fernanda,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      I have been in the same boat as you regarding having a manager who didn’t know how to lead. The importance of teamwork and changing our perception to getting things done is absolutely essential.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the day,


  5. I love your way of asking the question right. I am not sure I did that always right when I still was a boss.
    What was great was if someone went on a course I asked them to teach the others what they learned. Everyone liked that and they ingrained what they had learn better that way 🙂
    Thanks Tom, again a great post.

    1. Hi Hannie,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      Asking your team members to teach the others what they learned on a course is a great technique. It gave them more of a reason to listen when attending.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,


  6. Hi Tom, great article. I love how you point out that the way we structure a sentence can hugely change the response we recieve. Saying, “How can we do this” vs. “can you do this”. Seems very subtle, but it removes the power from the responder to choose the easy way out by just answering No. I am glad you point that these tips can be used in your personal life too. I already thought of ways to use the strategies you have here on my kids :). You posts are really informative and I can’t wait to see what you come out with next.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found the article helpful.

      Asking the right kinds of questions to our people is so powerful. Keep practicing them and they will come second nature to you, and you will start to ask the right questions at the right times.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,


  7. Hey Tom

    Thank you for your value added tips as normal. I have been part of a sales company before and this article reminds me of what they taught us.

    We were taught these kind of questions in order to motivate our prospective buyers and our team.

    I think asking questions in general is key for any leader or sales team. Thank you for also giving practical tips to be used for personal development.

    1. Hi Thabo,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that the article was valuable for you.

      You are absolutely right that asking questions in general is key for any leader of any team, not just sales. It is my pleasure to keep sharing these tips.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,


  8. Tom,
    Asking the right questions is essential to leadership! ‘How’ and ‘what’ questions are my go-to when leading a team. The questions center on ‘what needs to be accomplished’ and ‘how do we do it’? The same goes for mentoring as well. You touch on it in your article, but that was the biggest thing that I gained from reading this. When I read something, I try to implement it right away! It’s an empowering feeling to implement a newly-learned skill. Thanks for your article!

    1. Hi Robert,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found the article helpful.

      It’s great that you are going to implement what you have learned. If you need any further help or discussion then please do not hesitate to contact me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,


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