Let’s Talk Business for June 29, 2023

Autonomy can drive higher engagement and productivity at work, but don’t confuse autonomy with flexibility. Companies that grant their employees autonomy — the flexibility to work at their own pace, and prioritize on their own — can have hidden financial benefits. Office cultures that value autonomy have higher morale, higher productivity, and less employee idleness and unproductive time.

Granting autonomy to your team can be difficult for some managers. It requires a certain level of trust, as well as checks and balances to make sure work is getting accomplished as agreed and on time. If you’re struggling to foster autonomy in your organization, try some of these steps.

Many managers and business owners confuse autonomy and flexibility. These are not the same thing: An organization can offer flexibility that doesn’t always translate to autonomy. For instance, a policy that allows its employees to work from home some days but requires them to be in the office Mondays and Wednesdays is somewhat flexible but not very autonomous.

Following this example, an autonomous workplace would enforce principles, rather than concrete policies. Rather than requiring a minimum of three days per week in the office, embrace the principle that employees can determine the location that will enable them to perform most effectively. Provide support, such as remote-working tools, that empowers employees to make this decision based on their own–and the organization’s– best interests.

Delegating is the antidote to micromanagement and a key strategy for building trust with your employees. Practice giving your employees the authority to make decisions without getting approval every step of the way. Set clear goals and make sure employees have the resources they need to work independently. Rather than telling someone, step-by-step, how to get to the desired outcome, focus instead on ensuring they have what they need to succeed.

Enforcing autonomy doesn’t mean completely stepping away; there still needs to be some accountability to make sure teams are coordinating productively. Train your managers to be hands-on in meaningful ways that promote good work. Enforcing a policy regarding when someone should be in the office is less likely to lead to high performance than setting regular individual check-in sessions. Make sure your team is clear on the difference between accountability and micromanagement, too. A leader’s role is to give the team the resources they need and to provide guidance as needed.

There is more than one way to solve a problem. Your employee’s approach likely won’t be the same as yours; that’s the beauty of hiring a team with diverse perspectives and experiences. Not every approach will work out the way you hope, and that’s okay. Don’t let perfectionism get in the way of progress. Regroup, provide constructive feedback, and try again.

The Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce offers many resources to help you run your business–including our annual Leadership Emporia Academy. Stop by the Trusler Business Center at 719 Commercial St., call 620-342-1600, or visit our website at www.emporiakschamber.org to learn more.

“Let’s Talk Business” is a weekly column of the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Emporia. The mission of the Chamber is to be proactive in creating an environment for business and community success, guided by the vision that positive attitudes promote positive actions. Contact us at 620-342-1600 or chamber@emporiakschamber.org and visit our website at www.emporiakschamber.org.