Autonomy is a great motivator. It’s one of the Basic Psychological Needs that people look for in their work (whether they realise it or not). We all like to feel we are in control. Feeling out of control can increase our anxiety and our dissatisfaction with our career.

Managers and leaders often talk about the desire for their employees to be autonomous. They talk about the frustration they experience when their people come to them seeking permission and guidance. “I just want them to get on with it without needing to come to me for every decision”, is a common complaint.

However, have we taught our direct reports and teams how to be autonomous?

One way to do this is to ‘table-top’ or ‘wargame’ common scenarios.

In your teams, you will have years of experience [1]. The collective wisdom will have the ability to come up with multiple scenarios that have either happened in the past or could happen in the future.

If you get the team together and work through these scenarios, you have the opportunity to achieve the following:

  • You can hear from the group what they think should happen in that situation;
  • You can get ideas from the team about what should happen;
  • You can set expectations about what you would like to see happen;
  • You can permit specific actions to occur without talking to you; and
  • You can set guidelines about your acceptable level of risk and what should not happen without discussing with you first.

People are more likely to demonstrate their autonomy if you work with them to set clear expectations.

[1] To understand how much experience you have in the room, what not ask everyone how long they have worked in the industry and then count how many years of experience are in the room. You may be surprised.