The concept of autonomy within an organisation is one of the hallmarks of an innovative culture. Giving employees decision-making power can enhance motivation, resulting in higher levels of performance and well-being. It also allows leaders to focus on more significant and complex decisions, exploring new sources of value creation. However, this shift from centralised control to empowered individuals is easier said than done, particularly in traditional hierarchical organisations. The lack of clear guidance and support often leaves employees feeling insecure about decision-making, leading to what is referred to as the “decision deficit.” The following are five strategies that can help reduce this deficit:
- Prepare yourself to empower others: Empowerment is a management term that often fails to deliver on its promise because executives find it difficult to give up control. Therefore, leaders must reflect on what held them back from empowering people in the past and plan for a staggered transition of responsibilities, starting with giving low-risk decisions to capable individuals.
- Develop a set of decision principles: Leaders must encourage employees to think for themselves by establishing decision-making principles that determine the questions any decision-maker should be able to answer as they prepare to make a decision.
- Clarify decision-making roles: It is essential to clarify decision roles, rights, and accountability. This starts at the top by writing down the decisions leaders are responsible for, individually and collectively. The more complex and sensitive the decision, the more likely it is that leaders will retain the decision-making role.
- Create a culture of learning: Leaders must cultivate a culture of learning by encouraging employees to share their insights and experiences, providing feedback and coaching, and establishing a supportive environment that promotes growth and development.
- Recognise and reward autonomy: Leaders must recognise and reward autonomy by celebrating the successes of empowered individuals, providing opportunities for growth and development, and acknowledging their contributions to the organisation’s success.
In conclusion, creating a culture of autonomy requires a significant shift in mindset and approach. However, with the right strategies and support, it is possible to reduce the decision deficit and empower employees to make decisions that drive innovation, performance, and well-being within the organisation.