Often someone from my staff would enter my office and say, “I have an idea.” Often I would answer, “Great! Run with it!”
“But don’t you want to hear it first?”
“Is it consistent with our Core Values?”
“Will it cost the company a lot of money?”
“Run with it. I hired and trained you. I trust you.”
In Daniel H. Pink’s book Drive, he shows how “autonomy” is one of the key elements for motivating your staff to do their best. Autonomy gives them a feeling of ownership and a sense of pride. Autonomy also empowers them to make decisions and take care of customers the best way they can.
I know. This is scary. But what if they screw up? But what if they don’t make good decisions? But what if they aren’t as good as I am?
Have you ever thought if you hired well and trained well, they just might end up being better than you?
Sure, giving autonomy to your staff is scary, but in the long game it is how you build a winning team.
I was in Athens, GA recently when my tennis shoes died. I went to the New Balance store where Cameron helped me find the perfect pair for my needs. (Did I mention I have odd-sized feet? Oh yeah, yesterday.)
She was smart. She was well-versed on the products she sold. She studied how I walked. She asked questions about what I did when wearing these shoes. She listened, repeated things back to me, asked more questions, then told me why she was suggesting the pairs she suggested. She was amazing!
As I was checking out, I just had to ask, “Are you the owner or manager?”
“Oh no, I just love working here.”
Cameron had the autonomy to make decisions and act as if she owned the place. She was in such control that I believed she was the owner.
That should always be your goal—to hire and train so well that your customers are so impressed by your staff member that they think he or she must be the owner.
PS Autonomy is letting your team members do the jobs they were hired and trained to do without someone breathing down their neck or constantly looking over their shoulder. Note the word “trained.” Don’t give them autonomy until they are trained, but once trained, set them loose. They’ll make a mistake or two at first, and you’ll help them learn from those mistakes, but in short order they will become the person you expected them to be when you hired them.