Jane is CEO of a retail business based in London and operating nationwide. The operational team is small, close-knit and dedicated to helping Jane achieve her ambitions. They have a few ideas themselves but they rarely share them because they know how she likes things done.
Mastering the art of getting out of your people’s way seems to be one of the best-kept secrets in business. As a manager, it takes a leap of faith to allow your people the freedom to get on with it.
One of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard of how to achieve it came from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella who summed it up like this:
Tell your people: “Make it happen. You have full authority.”
Treating your people with respect and trusting them to do the right thing will reap real rewards. Your performance will increase, significantly. Your engagement scores will rise, your attrition will fall, compliance will improve.
CEOs who lead without trusting their people create managers who also fail their people in the way they lead. Those managers need to know what is going on so that they can prove themselves too. Their fear of being caught out drives them to be ever more overbearing.
Dan Pink in his book, Drive, talks about the science behind motivation; where a role requires a more cognitive approach than traditional carrot and stick approach, the latter fails consistently.
Exploiting these three fundamental principles will reap tremendous benefits:
It is highly likely your people understand the direction of travel; it is even more likely that they know what the key issues are along the way and what they want is for you to get out of their way and let them get on with it.
Allow them to decide how they will get there and you will see a level of engagement, creativity and problem solving that will amaze you. We see this all the time in our workshops; our clients are continually blown away by their people, who willingly take on business challenges over and above their day job and come back with remarkable results.
We like to get better at stuff, we enjoy taking on challenges and making a contribution, and we don’t always want rewarding for it! Counter-intuitive, right? Not if you look at examples like Wikipedia, built on free contributions by developers who give their time for free to improve open source software for the betterment of the user base. What if your people could choose the skills they want to develop and focus that time on improving your business? Win-win.
Your best people are attracted to more than just the money; they want to feel that their work has meaning. Your purpose, provided it is meaningful, is fundamental to engaging your people. This is the north star, the guiding light towards both autonomy and mastery. If I connect with the purpose and I am allowed to apply myself I will give more than just what you expect; I will excite you with my passion and energy. Why? Because you treat me like a person and not a machine that has been designed to simply shift a widget.
Getting out your people’s way makes sense commercially and scientifically, so why not give it a go?
Don’t take my word for it; Dan Pink says it far more eloquently than me in his book Drive and this short YouTube clip https://youtu.be/u6XAPnuFjJc