As a kid I learned about balance. I once made Kool-Aid without putting any sugar in it. Add the mix to water and stir. The results were not good. The reason is the ingredients weren’t in the proper proportion or were missing altogether. Companies without balance between autonomy and accountability have the same problem: bad results.
So what do we do? First, let’s define the terms. Accountability means being held responsible for results and actions while autonomy is having self-directing freedom or being self-governed. Leaders and managers want the former and employees the latter. Below, you will see a high-functioning team requires both.
- Disengagement – Employees with little control over how they do their job and a lack of clarity on the expected outcome won’t be highly engaged.
- Chaos – Giving employees complete freedom with no guidelines or expectations results in results and processes that are all over the board.
- Micromanagement – Employees feel they are being micromanaged when there are strict results expected but they have little say on how to do their job including making decisions and suggesting improvements.
- High-performance – Employees who have reasonable discretion on reaching meaningful, realistic goals create the sweet spot for producing high-performing team.
As you can see, it is crucial that companies balance autonomy and accountability. First, you must create accountability for people to know the desired outcome and how they will be measured. And you can only give autonomy to employees who demonstrate they can handle it; this makes hiring the right people important.
Start your journey to high performing teams by first determining what success looks like for the company. Next, do the same for individual departments and team members. Then build on that by giving feedback on slowly giving people more freedom in their roles.