Instilling Autonomy to Boost Motivation

There exists no algorithm on how to run a successful business. But there is one common trait for all: people are a business’ greatest asset.

Now, take a look at this quote from Simon Sinek: “In weak companies, the dreamers are expected to serve the planners. In great companies, the planners feel inspired to serve the dreamers”.

Having been there myself, I can’t emphasise enough just how true this statement is.

Whilst the main responsibility of a leader has for many years been making business decision, for most part, we are now taking that away.

Having a great place to work where employees feel motivated and strive to do their very best, today implies giving freedom to others, a far more bottom-up approach than ever before.

This may sound disconcerting at times but it can produce extraordinary results. It motivates employees to think in a very different way: to take your business as their own.


The power of motivation

Getting and staying motivated is vital whether you’re striving to reach a business goal, looking to beat your opponent in a sports match or aiming to pass an important exam. In other words, it’s crucial in every aspect of our lives. But there are several reasons why it’s important in the workplace. Employee motivation can bring about many benefits:

Increased commitment – making employees put their best effort into tasks, ongoing development – as employees feel the need to develop their skill sets further to achieve the goals they’ve set themselves, and a better sense of satisfaction – reducing the chances of employee absenteeism and helping curb turnover.

Sometimes we might just jump into things that call our attention and as a result encourage that motivation to spring.

Other times, we’ll start really motivated and slowly lose that motivation as we go along – then that task suddenly becomes our worst nightmare.

But more often than not, motivation doesn’t just pop out of thin air. It requires more than just crossing fingers and toes.

It’s therefore important that we learn how to realise and detect when and how to make it happen.


A focus on autonomy 

To instil that freedom that allows our employees’ greatest ideas to flourish is one way of boosting motivation. In other words, the art of encouraging ‘autonomy’.

The challenge? Albert Einstein spelled it out for us:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gifted”.

Using our intuitive mind, we’re using more than just our five senses. It’s almost like “knowing without knowing why”. Arguably, it’s also what makes things interesting to us, it takes us out of our comfort zone and makes us want to learn more about the matter.

Yet, often, as human beings, we’re too afraid of using it. We’d rather stay away from those thoughts to make our own business decisions, let alone giving permission to others in the team who are more junior and inexperienced than us, to make their own judgements.

It’s common practice in our society because it feels safer that way.

What happens then? Autonomy is lost.

Motivation inevitably follows.

And employees feel caged, unchallenged and micromanaged.

There’s no encouragement to think ‘outside of the box’ and produce great work for themselves or the company and sooner or later they’ll want to leave you.


Leading by motivating

Focusing on transformational leadership, a leadership style in which creating change is the aim, you can encourage a switch in this approach. It’s about focusing on being the sort of leader that works to establish an environment of trust, respect and admiration.

Through a strong sense of corporate culture, employee ownership and independence, you inspire workers to own and embrace their tasks at hand avoiding an irritating sense of micromanagement.

According to Bass, a leader with these traits is someone who encourages the motivation and positive development of followers. It fosters an ethical work environment with clear values, priorities and standards, and it holds an emphasis on authenticity, cooperation and open communication.

It’s the sort of leader that shows an obvious desire to create other leaders, not just followers and subordinates. They empower employees by coaching and mentoring them, and giving them the resources they need to fully excel. The type of front runners that people truly want to look up to.

Most smart business owners know this but are too scared to do anything about it. So my advice?

Focus on making that conscious effort to allow the right balance between ‘rational’ and ‘intuitive’ to emerge in your organisation. Give your employees the freedom to make their own judgements – to decide for themselves whether using their gut instinct or staying away from it is the right thing to do in every other circumstance they face. After all, they’re the experts in the field. And trust me, they’ll come to you for advice if they’re truly unsure of what they’re doing.

But of course, expect them to learn from their successes and also from their failures.

Although, who are we kidding?

Just like you and I once did to get to where we are today.




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