The 3 Expressions of Freedom at Work
Freedom at work isn’t earned, it’s unearned.
Give people freedom to do the things you hired them to do.
Treat people like the competent responsible individuals you hired – unless they prove otherwise. Freedom at work is lost by incompetence and irresponsibility.
The 3 expressions of freedom at work:
#1. Freedom at work is the authority to act without permission.
Teach people to lead, not follow.
“Use ‘I intend to …’ to turn passive followers into active leaders,” Capt. L. David Marquet, former commander of the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Santa Fe. (Turn the Ship Around)
Followers ask permission. Leaders have intention.
Permission-giving slows organizations. It may feel safe, but it’s dangers.
The next time someone asks, “Is it alright if I …” say, “Tell me what you intend to do.”
Ask, “What do I need to know?” Then, if appropriate, sign off.
#2. Freedom at work is the discretion to schedule the use of time.
Time is often controlled by others in organizational life. Higher ups schedule meetings; you attend. Customers call; you answer.
Help team members know their strengths, responsibilities, and the way to interact; after that, give freedom.
Deadlines and goals:
Deadlines control when work is completed. Give people enough information so they can establish their own deadlines.
Team goals establish individual deadlines. “When can we expect this to be done?”
#3. Freedom at work is the independence to determine how work gets done.
Encourage team members to determine the best way to serve customers.
When deadlines are outside of your control, make room for people to customize the WAY their work gets done. “How would you like to get this done?”
What expressions of freedom at work might you see?
I have a small set of guide lines. If what you want to do is inside of these don’t ask just do. If your people are asking permission to do everything? You are not doing your job you are doing theirs.
Thanks Walt. Your comment makes me think that boundaries are necessary for freedom. Once everyone knows the playing field, set them free.
Guidelines, regulatory requirements, demands for written audit trails and documented decision making with sign-off of authority at all stages cripples this approach.
Thanks Mitch. Yes, that’s for sure. And in some contexts they are necessary. I suppose a part of this conversation is when are sign-offs necessary?
There is barely autonomy around using the toilet, never mind anything else.
Love this content!! Short and sweet comment from me, because I am physically recovering from cancer surgery and 30/30 radiation therapy treatments!!
Despite all the roadblocks that are mentioned in these comments (and I agree with them and can add in the roadblock of non-responsive or oppositional leadership) — the person who can think to always frame their actions in “I intend to….” (and maybe document that proposal) keeps themselves in the game of being the best they can be in the situation at hand.