Over the years, we’ve cited research showing that employees who have the power to make decisions and implement plans are often more satisfied and more productive. This principle applies to teams as well as individuals.
The higher a team’s autonomy, the more active learning and the less emotional exhaustion team members report. Group uncertainty about degree of autonomy reduces productivity and effectiveness. This means that independence can devolve into gridlock or chaos if people aren’t clear about their level of authority. To ensure the likelihood of success, managers should balance engagement with enough structure to clarify boundaries and expectations.
Joan F. Cheverie, manager of professional development programs at the higher education and IT nonprofit EDUCAUSE, offers advice to managers who want to empower teams: “Stop telling your staff how to do their job and, instead, set the strategic direction, deadlines, and benchmarks and then allow them to determine how to accomplish the job.” David Rock, executive director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, suggests giving employees a framework within which they can make their own choices: “Try defining the end result really clearly,” he writes, “and outlining the boundaries of what behaviors are okay. Then let people create within this frame.”
We want to hear: How have you empowered teams to be more autonomous? And how has a team you’ve worked on been empowered? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.