How to Give Employees Autonomy
When you hire an employee, you bring aboard that person’s passion, enthusiasm, and creativity. Your job as a manager is to unleash it on the tasks and projects your organization needs done. All too often, managers neglect the unique attributes each person brings to a job and resort to telling employees exactly how things must be done. This micromanaging kills organizations by driving away its best employees.
Retain and motivate your employees by giving them autonomy. But how exactly do you do that? Building autonomy all boils down to creating a culture of trust. Here are some tips to making that culture a reality by granting autonomy to your employees.
Show them the big picture
Basic adult learning theory insists adults must understand why something is important before they will learn it. This is true in any learning setting. No matter how you teach your staff, they must know why what you’re telling them is important. Unlike with preschoolers, “because I said so” is no answer.
When employees understand why the organization exists and how their roles fit within the big picture, employees take each action with the organization’s mission and goals in mind. They don’t need nitpicky rules to do what’s right. You give them the big picture, and they fill in the details. They move the organization in the direction you want to because they know why you want to go there.
Give them decisions to make
Formal leaders of an organization set goals and strategies, but good leaders know they don’t have all the answers. Letting employees make decisions is incredibly motivating for employees, and this motivation costs no money. Even when an assignment calls for only small amounts of decision making authority for the employee, managers must grant it. If the only thing an employee gets to decide is the color scheme on an advertisement, that employee has buy-in on the marketing campaign’s success.
As you develop the decision-making skills of your employees, give them boundaries within which to make decisions. For example, your front office needs coverage during business hours. You have three employees who work full time. Tell them your expectations for office coverage, and let them determine the way that meets your needs while giving them the most desirable work environment possible. From your perspective it doesn’t matter the system they implement as long as office coverage is maintained.
As you move forward, don’t settle for merely little decisions. Give your best employees chances to impress you. As employees prove themselves with good little decisions, give them bigger decisions to make. As a manager, your employee’s success is your success, so let them shine!
Treat mistakes as learning opportunities
When you allow people to make decisions, every once in a while, they make a bad decision. By treating mistakes as learning opportunities, you give employees the safety net they need to be bold in their work. Employees who take risks are often the ones who give your organization a competitive edge. They come up with ideas your competition is too afraid to explore. Foster your employees’ boldness by allowing them to make mistakes.
Don’t tolerate bullying
When you give autonomy, you empower people to act. Unfortunately, a small number of people can’t handle autonomy and empowerment. They use their freedom against others. If you see bullying in your organization, stamp it out quickly. Bullying is an attempt to control other people, and that directly conflicts with individual autonomy. Your organization’s culture can’t withstand bullying among employees.
Embrace alternative work schedules
To the extent your organization’s business allows, embrace alternative work schedules to promote employee autonomy. Some people work best early in the morning; others are night owls, and still, others do fine with the normal workday. Allow employees to work when they feel most productive. You may even consider letting some staff work remotely. An autonomous workforce feels valued, and they’ll give you their best effort when they’re on the clock.