4 STEPS TO CREATING A CULTURE OF FREEDOM THAT WORKS
Freedom is a powerful thing. For centuries people have campaigned to achieve and keep their freedom. It’s now seen as a right of every person to be free to live their life, and pursue their ambitions. However, it’s not only our human rights that a lack of freedom takes away. A lack of freedom also brings a drastic loss of potential. Shackling people within unreasonable limits removes their ability to bring their impact and individuality to any situation.
The same is true in a business sense. When leaders and companies put unreasonable restrictions on their employees, they remove their ability to add value to the business. Not only this, these restrictions also remove motivation and engagement at the same time.
Creating a company culture that gives every individual freedom to work in the way they want is a fantastic way to access top performance. However, freedom without some type of aligned goals or objectives can be chaos. Creating a culture of freedom that works and creates wins for the company isn’t easy. It requires acceptance of the strategy from the whole company, and it also requires a strong and clear vision and values.
As with many things in business, change comes from the leadership, so here are 4 things that leaders can do today to lay the groundwork for a culture of freedom that works.
#1 – PLACE BOUNDARIES
Strangely, the first thing you need to do is create some boundaries. This is because boundless freedom within a company doesn’t work every day. Firstly, it risks nothing impactful getting done because everyone is working on the wrong, or even the same, thing. Plus, it can be overwhelming for the people involved, as the lack of direction is uncomfortable.
Therefore, you need to put in place some boundaries within which your team can be free and perform their tasks. There are many ways to do this. One way is to outline the area of responsibility that each person has. Then you can suggest a desired outcome, or target within that area. How they reach that outcome, and how they own their area of responsibility is entirely up to them.
Another great way to place guiding boundaries are through a strong vision and values. These need to come directly from the top and need to be shown, not just said.
#2 – DON'T MICRO-MANAGE
This may be obvious, but there’s no space for micro-management in a culture of freedom. In fact, micro-management is the enemy of freedom at work. Everything it stands for is counter-productive in creating the healthy freedom you want.
So simply don’t do it – resist the urge. If you find yourself doing it, then admit it, apologise and explain it won’t happen again. It only takes one instance of micro-management to undo a lot of good work in creating this type of culture, so be very honest if you slip.
#3 – RECOGNISE SUCCESS
A culture of freedom works best when everyone is fully engaged. This way you can be sure that they are owning their role and getting some great work done. When this happens, and you see some fantastic results, then recognise it. Recognition is a key driver for motivation and motivation drives engagement, so it’s crucial to positively recognise good performance when you see it.
This recognition also serves as an indirect validation that they are using the freedom in the correct way and are performing the way you want them too.
#4 - DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY
This is #4, but it may be the most important. Without accountability, your culture of freedom won’t produce results. You need each member of your team to be engaged and to take ownership of the result that you’ve tasked them with. Cultivating accountability within your team isn’t easy, and can take some time. However, step one is to lead by example. Take responsibility for the results of the team as a whole, and show in public that when something goes wrong, you will stand up and take the brunt from the client or the upper management. When your team see you do this, they will respect it and will take the same approach for their area of responsibility too.
Something to emphasise when we’re discussing a culture of freedom is leadership style. Many people confuse leaders that want to give their team freedom as leaders who are soft. This couldn’t be further from the truth. To create a culture of freedom that really works, you need to be strong and demanding on your team. Freedom comes with responsibility, and without a strong leader that holds their team accountable to their responsibilities, the system doesn’t work.
So be strong, be courageous and hold your team accountable, but give them the freedom to own the role their way. This certainly isn’t the easiest style of leadership, but it definitely is the most rewarding for leader and team alike.