How to Promote Independent Thought in the Professionals Around You

Autonomy is freedom – the ability to think and act independently. In a nutshell, it means achieving results by doing things your own way. In the workplace, autonomy is a key motivator identified by psychologists. When people’s talents and intelligence are acknowledged and acted upon, motivation increases.

A Culture of Trust

To ignite innovation at your company, build a culture of mutual trust between all team members, from senior management to rank-and-file employees. Help people to work autonomously and achieve self-guided success, without losing sight of your desired results.

  • Set clear expectations. Without clear-cut goals, employees will feel confused and uncertain. Use ongoing communication to communicate company vision, mission, goals and objectives – and be sure every individual understands why their role matters and where they stand in terms of the bigger picture.
  • Establish choice. Choice is a natural motivator. Encourage your employees to achieve their targets in their own way. But be sure to strike a balance: As you increase autonomy, never leave a person feeling abandoned. Make this clear during initial target setting.
  • Understand your employees’ expectations as well. Today’s employees view each of their jobs in terms of how they contribute to the overall picture of their career – their personal brand. Unless they have autonomy, their personal successes can feel tough to measure. And they will have no qualms about finding independence elsewhere, if you don’t provide it.
  • Don’t micromanage. Lay out your expectations and expected outcomes, then pull back and let people run with them. Allow them to reach goals in ways that may be new to you. Offer support and facilitation, but avoid looking over their shoulders.
  • People have good ideas. At some point, an employee will say, “Hang on. I worked out a better way of doing this.” When that time comes, actively listen to their idea. And, don’t forget the quieter voices, either. Have a means for more reticent people – whether it’s a suggestion box or a way of speaking with you one-on-one – where they can share their innovations despite being shy or extroverted.
  • Encourage ongoing learning. Autonomy and continuous learning go hand in hand. Support employees and make professional educational resources readily available to them. Anything that encourages people to develop new skills and affirm their existing knowledge will boost their confidence to act independently.
  • Treat failures as learning experiences. Everyone make mistakes. When it happens to a team member, find a way for everyone to learn from it, rather than chastising or placing blame. Remember, your employees won’t be confident in their work without your trust.
  • Loosen up. Be as flexible as possible while still meeting deadlines and achieving desired results. Allow for some give and take in scheduling, dress code, and even how people decorate their workspaces. You always need to use good judgment, of course, but unless something is unreasonable, unsafe or inappropriate, keep an open mind.

As you sharpen professional skills in yourself and among your team members, consider partnering with TRC Professional Solutions to design a training and development strategy that will ensure ongoing success. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.