Why Every Leader Benefits From Team Autonomy

- Leadership

Lorraine Margherita is a designer of collective dynamics for governance and performance. She helps multinational organizations experience collective practices. According to her, “Increased autonomy in a growing number of organizations can help yours create meaning and performance”.

Over the years, by helping and researching companies which removed the barriers between decision and action, I found out that there are many models that can help –more than 40 actually. It starts with agile, self-organizing, or holacratic and goes well beyond.

Eager to provide leaders and managers with concrete situations they can relate to, I found real-life examples in dozens of countries (Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Netherland, the UK, and the US among others) and in all kinds of industries (automobile, cleaning, clothing, food, healthcare, hospitality, insurance, IT, retail, shoes, and transportation to name a few).

What do those companies and models have in common?

I found 3 characteristics when it comes to giving more autonomy to the team:

1. Characteristics of companies that drive team autonomy: They all have a holistic view

A vision of the world: a sense of purpose

Those companies see themselves as part of a larger ecosystem, they are connected to it and they are aware of their impact on it. They make choices on the future they want to build, and on their role in building that vision.

A vision of man: a responsible being

They take into account that Everybody Makes Decisions (the title of my talk at the Forward Virtual Summit in December, 2021) and expect their employees to be as responsible in their professional decisions as they are with their own family or personal choices.

2. Characteristics of companies that drive team autonomy: They rely on a collective effort

Every person counts

In every area, endeavors that will impact many people in the organization go faster and deeper if they rely on a large number of employees. First of all because it means that they start “walking the talk” from the very beginning! Also because a solid ground helps sustainability.

People are never as engaged as when they are part of the decisions they will carry out!

Every step counts

Changing the way your company is run hardly happens overnight of course. The journey itself is part of the process, it takes trial and error, it takes experiments.

3. Characteristics of companies that drive team autonomy: They all value authenticity

Cross boundaries

The first boundary to be crossed is that between our personal and professional lives. It refers to what Frédéric Laloux calls “wholeness”: being the same person outside and inside your company. No masks.

Crossing boundaries also refers to the ability to break the silos from which so many organizations suffer.

Finally, it refers to the ability to behave as a collective, each person feeling entitled to the achievement of others. A regular team meeting should keep every member interested, even before or after they have shared the focus of their respective activity.

Practice feedback

If it’s ok to try, it has to be ok to fail. Feedback is a major key to development.

ⓘ Read as well: How to multiply Autonomy and Empowerment in your team with Delegation Poker by Management 3.0

Autonomous Team
Autonomous teams as a driver for success

How can every company benefit from initiatives that give autonomy to teams and people?

I asked the questions to corporate leaders and here is what they say:

1. Benefit of autonomy for teams: Growth for the employees

Employees grow more and faster when they feel that they are in charge and also that others in the organization care about their work and about their situation.

It is true for leaders as well: by allowing others to be part of the decisions, they free time for their own role. Which includes helping others grow.

Did you know? Lorraine Margherita held a session at Forward Virtual 2021, the conference by Management 3.0

2. Advantage of autonomy for teams: Increased motivation

The collective work leads to a shared goal, and thus creates less conflict with individual goals or values. Which in turn enhances motivation and engagement.

3. Benefit of autonomy for teams: Speed and impact

When the framework is clear and participative, decisions can be made faster and better. As a participant put it: “you don’t need to ask 10 people before making a decision”.

Making more people responsible makes it easier to scale an entity or a company (this is not for every company) with fewer bottlenecks at the middle management level.

Read on:

Whether your company is already “flat” or still hierarchical: those trends are at work all around you. Knowing where they point informs your own leadership if you are ready to adjust to the evolutions of the workforce and to make the most of the collective.

With those common traits and main benefits in mind, the participants of the session wondered about the setbacks of delegated decision making. They also asked how to implement such a change in the way to run a business: let’s cover that in an upcoming post. In the meantime, share your own questions in the comments below, I’ll answer them in that second post.

Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

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