Why Giving Autonomy To Employees Matters?

picture showing gift given by leader
Self-motivated employees are like the engine of a company. However, as a leader, it is beyond your control to create a self-motivated employee. In fact, the words ‘self –motivated’ describe that a person is intrinsically motivated, not by any external force. So, as a leader, you can only provide a space in the team that fulfills your team members’ core values, personal outcomes, and ambitions.

Studies show that people are most motivated to pursue, and are most satisfied by, the goals that they choose for themselves. When a person is self-motivated, they experience a fulfilling state called ‘flow.’ They express freely and are more creative. Their dedication and perseverance also increases. They perform better.

Research at Cornell University studied 320 small businesses. 50% of the employees were given autonomy whereas the remaining 50% were managed with a top-down approach. The businesses that offered autonomy grew 4 times the rate of control-oriented firms and had one-third the turnover.

Google encourages its employees to spend one day of the week on a side project. In this 20% of their total work time, employees work on projects that they find interesting in an environment they like. In a typical year, more than half of Google’s new offerings are a result of pure autonomy. Gmail, Google News, and other popular services were invented during this 20%.

Here are three ways to encourage autonomy within your team:

  • Don’t micromanage:
    When you observe and control your team members’ work closely, you are sending them a message: “I don’t trust you.” Trust is a two way street. They must be able to trust you as much as you trust them. Without trust, very little is achieved. When your team gets accustomed to your supervision and inputs all the time, they will become dependent on you. Micromanaging is not productive. When you get into all the details of your team’s work again and again, you will get exhausted physically and mentally, which will ultimately hamper your productivity. Nobody likes to be under constant surveillance; team members may even quit if they are micromanaged.
  • Reframe failures as learning experiences:
    A failure can be the most important feedback for your team. From failure, you receive firsthand experience of the problem. A deeper understanding of the problem is always likely to immerge. The Beatles first gave an audition for a music company called Decca records. Before this audition, they had been performing and practicing rigorously for two years, more than 10 hours a day. Decca rejected them without any hesitation, stating, “Guitar groups are on the way out.” But as we all know, The Beatles went on to become one of the greatest bands in history.
  • Implement the ROWE framework:
    ROWE stands for Results Only Work Environment, created by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. Instead of the traditional approach of focusing on the number of hours clocked by your team, the focus is on the output generated. So, team members are not chained to their desk and feel more in control of their workflow. They also develop a sense of ownership of their work. As ROWE gives more freedom and space to the team, creativity and innovation can easily become a part of the company’s culture.
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In today’s economy where compensation and benefits are easily surpassed by your competition, greater autonomy can become your biggest advantage for retaining talent and sustaining a high performing team.

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