Do you remember that restaurant slogan a few years ago? Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it. Get what you want without following any rules. That may sound like a pretty good way to run your organization. After all, isn’t the bottom line the bottom line regardless of how you get there? And, many people have rebelled against rules since sixth grade. Give them what they want –freedom!
Really? Do you think they really want to work in a no rules environment? They probably want everyone else to have structure and rules … each person wants the autonomy to do it their way, right? That may sound good but allowing anyone complete autonomy is a good way to ruin your organization.
However, a shift you may want to consider is to make is to shift from absolute structure to enabled autonomy – where your team’s independence is encouraged and supported within your established guidelines. Technology has created an avenue for more autonomy and creativity in how results are achieved, but there has to be a balance between structure and autonomy. No rules, just right does not work.
Structure creates definition and clarity. And it also helps to provide you with information, strategy, resources, and recognition. In addition, it provides a consistent way to enforce rules and ethics. Structure is necessary, but it exists only to assist in the results you are trying to achieve. It does not exist to manage the process you follow.
Absolute autonomy – total independence – may sound good and may even work for a short period, but it does not work long-term. Without some structure, chaos will reign. The result would be constantly shifting priorities, direction, processes … and the fallout would be unhappy customers and disengaged employees. Long-term chaos is never a good thing. Your structure is designed to prevent chaos from sneaking into your team disguised as fulfilling a need to be autonomous.
No one wants to be micromanaged. But, there is responsibility that comes with enabled autonomy. Your primary responsibility is to create positive, healthy conditions for your team to do their best work. The more freedom that they are provided within your guidelines, the more responsibility they will accept to deliver positive results.
Here are a few points to ponder as you coach your team from structure to enabled autonomy:
- Too much structure or too much autonomy is toxic to your team. Do you have a balance of structure and enabled autonomy?
- Does your team have the freedom to creatively deliver positive results?
- Simplicity liberates your team.
Based on the book LeaderShift … Making leadership everyone’s business.
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