Todd Dewett | July 26, 2021
It’s well known that, when possible, a leader should give people room to work. We often call this autonomy. The research is clear – employees enjoy being treated like adults who can do their job without unnecessary interventions from the boss. Sounds obvious, but it’s less common than you might imagine.
Instead, there are a few typical ways we get this wrong.
The first is not being accessible. This isn’t autonomy granted thoughtfully to give you room to work. It’s a byproduct of bad assumptions about the team or a problematic lack of interest. The supervisor works with the door closed and leaves the team alone and is slow to respond to inquiries. This isn’t autonomy. It’s neglect.
Next is the horrible classic – micromanaging! Here, a well-intentioned manager checks in way too often hovers over your shoulder or sends endless messages asking about your status. When autonomy suffers in this manner it creates resentment and hurts long-term commitment.
Then we have the one size fits all error. This is when a manager knows they need to balance autonomy and helpful availability. So, they choose a standard amount of time each day to go interact. For, let’s say, one hour each day, they go say hello, ask questions, and seek to be helpful. Great, right? Kinda. The challenge is that some employees don’t need you at all, some a little, and some a lot. Thus, you’re never giving them precisely what they need.
Finally, let’s think about the right approach – thoughtful autonomy! Here, a manager recognizes that all employees are unique. They think about each person’s communication preferences and needs. They use interaction patterns that are measured for a specific person, and they talk about it openly and solicit feedback about their behavior too, just to be sure.
Whether or not something is good or bad sometimes depends on how it’s used. Autonomy is no different. It’s very useful – when it’s thoughtful.
WHAT’S UP WITH DR. D?
· Motivation set to a beat. Check out this musically enhanced version of me ranting 😉 https://bit.ly/3BGcTX2
· Heard of Linktree? There are several players in this space. The idea is simple – one link to rule them all! Here is mine: https://linktr.ee/drdewett. You might find this useful too.
· I just wrote a script for a chapter in a course I’m working on. The course is about creating personal success and the chapter is about planning. You can’t wait for success to happen. It’s a full-contact sport that you must plan out! More about the course coming soon…
· Vacation! We all need to enjoy time spent not working. I’m writing this to you from a lake near Houston. I’m hanging with my family for a few days of boating, fishing, and lounging. Whether you’re investing in a vacation or enjoying a staycation, your brain and your family relationships need a little lovin, so go relax!
Purpose matters! When employees feel purpose, they do better work – period. However, some jobs are better at creating a sense of purpose than others. For example, nurses know they are helping people, but cube-dwelling paper-pushers might wonder if they are really adding value.
Good news: even if the job itself is not filled with obvious purpose, a talented leader can still help create a meaningful experience of purpose. The secret is in understanding that real purpose is present when relationships are strong. Great relationships help us feel useful and fulfilled. They let us know we matter. So, act on this idea by remembering to do these three things every day:
Listen. You know the old saying about two ears and one mouth? It’s useful – if you listen more than you talk, you validate others and help them feel understood.
Help. Use your muscles, your brain, your resources, and your network. How can you help them get unstuck and keep moving when needed? Helping shows that you care and that you’re invested in their success.
Show appreciation. Some people need this more than others, but we all need it. A quick sincere note or comment about a job well done or an effort greatly appreciated can be terribly motivating.
Purpose is interesting, but sometimes it’s a lofty concept. It doesn’t have to be. Just remember these relationship basics and your team will be productive and filled with the experience of fulfillment.
Until next time – stay safe, go learn something, maybe help someone, or at least do something interesting!
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All of my links in one place: https://linktr.ee/drdewett.