June 24

The three “A”s of managing a team


Team members need three key items to survive and thrive - I call these the Three “A”s, or 3A for short:

  1. Authority - the delegated approval to do the work (no constant asking for permission)
  2. Autonomy - the breathing space to do the work in the way they see best (no micro-managing)
  3. Accountability - the oversight to justify key decisions, and to ensure they are on the right path (“can you walk me through why you made this decision”)

(The Three “A”s applies to team members that are a good fit for their skills - if not, keep your eyes out for a future post about putting the right person in the right role.)


Delegated authority should be stated and staged.

Stated authority is the delegated approval to do a certain type of work. Ideally this is written, but it can be as simple as “could you do XYZ task please”.

Delegating authority is one of the scariest steps an entrepreneur can take. “What if the employee makes a mistake”, “what if they steal my money, “what if they annoy a customer”? The scariest things are often the most important - delegating authority frees your time to make bigger decisions, grow the business, and fight more important fires if you have to.

Put systems in place to minimise risk, with staged authority. Staged authority is a series of increasing responsibility that you assign - as an entrepreneur or manager.


Staged authority can be as simple as providing a customer service rep the ability to fix any customer’s complaint (eg. product refunds or replacements, SaaS extensions) up to the value of $100, up to three times per week without needing to seek any permission. The customer service rep needs to obtain permission to resolve any complaints that require a larger amount. For decisions that exceed given amount, encourage staff to come to consider options and come you with a recommendation on how to proceed, rather than just passing the buck up the chain - this lays the groundwork and is a test for future higher authority.

Typically the higher up the value chain in your company, the larger the initial authority. Managers also need the authority to manage.

For staff with direct financial access, options including limiting risk with bank-limited credit card transactions, or providing a virtual credit card with a low maximum, or using two-factor authentication for expenditure approval.

Staged authority provides you with control over big decisions, enables you to provide timely feedback and direction, and prepares staff to make these decisions on their own in the future (“what would the CEO/boss do in this situation”).


Once your team members have authority, they need autonomy to get on and achieve. While it is tempting to micro-manage, resist the urge! Autonomy is the breathing space that we all need to do things how we thing are appropriate.

Mistakes will be made - accept some short term pain for long term gain. As discussed in the accountability section below, provide feedback on any mistakes and provide guidance for future actions.


The third pillar in the 3A framework is accountability - set expecations and look for results. Accountability is the backstop to ensure that the authority and autonomy is used as intended.

Build a meeting framework - schedule weekly and relevant meetings with between managers and team members. Schedule 1-on-1’s with key employees regularly, and other employees less frequently. Daily standups are a useful tool for setting and refreshing team direction.

Set expectations (authority) and monitor these (accountability). Employee scorecards can be a useful tool to monitor KPIs and weekly results.

For delegated authority, ask if they used the authority, how many times, any concerns etc. Hold your team accountable to the authority set. Did they do what you expected - and if not, why not? Give feedback and direction as required. Systems first - trust, but verify.

To shorten meeting times, report by exception (ie. if expectations are met then there may be nothing to report)


Give your staff the “3 A” treatment

  • Give them staged and stated authority
  • autonomy
  • Accountability - trust, but verify
Let go and let your team!

About the author 

Andrew Venture

Andrew is an operations specialist and project manager who loves systems just a little too much. He loves to travel and live around the world, to the point where his mother doesn't know which country he is currently in.

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