Inspiring Autonomy on a Team

As a leader, how do you strike the balance of making sure people have autonomy yet also subscribe to being part of a team that works as one?

Do they need to be mutually exclusive or can you have both?

Well, as if you didn't know, I'm a big proponent of finding the balance. It's important for me to have a team that works as one. I find that a team that supports and trusts each other is a team that will never let each other fail. There's a lot of things as a leader you have to put into motion in order to get your team to that point (check out any number of my posts), so how do you do that and still allow autonomy?

I honestly don't think it's that hard. First allowing your people to go after or learn about areas of their own interest that create value for the organization is key. Far too often managers get stuck in this rut of not thinking forward because they are so busy which is insane. People are more than their JD's and why wouldn't you want more depth of knowledge on your team?

Granted some individuals want the company to pay for that knowledge which is becoming harder and harder to do as L&D budgets are being wiped clean or have heavy restrictions around them. So, you need to be creative in helping them find a way to learn.

But autonomy is not always about learning. A second way to allow autonomy as a leader is to utilize someone's experience and current knowledge to build a better way. Now, this can be both an individual or group effort, but in the end, they are working towards creating a path that is a benefit for the team, organization or customer. (Or heck, all three!!)

The third way to allow autonomy, and the most obvious, is to quit micromanaging. Seriously. Even if you use to do that exact same role. You manage your domain, let them manage theirs. As long as there are parameters of quality and they know the end game....let them get there the way they want to get there. Maybe they have a better way or more expedient way, or maybe it's just how they like to do it. Leave them be!

My final thought is that as a leader, you need to protect the team aspect. No one person is better or bigger than the team. Autonomy is important for everyone's personal success, but it should never be at the expense of the team.

What do you think?

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