Encouraging Employee Independence
For managers or business owners, developing employees that are independent and can self-direct is often a key goal. No one likes to feel like a micromanager, but at the same time, expectations exist and must be met. If you’re trying to encourage more independence in your employees, these four steps are a basic primer to help you get there.
Step 1: Share Expectations
Perhaps the most important part of making your employees independent is making sure they understand what they need to do once they’ve been turned loose. This is especially important if there are multiple layers of people involved in the project, each with their own unique desire outcomes. Make sure employees not only understand how their work fits into the business’ larger growth plan and values, but also what practical metrics they’ll be judged on once the work is done.
Also, let the conversation about expectations be just that—a discussion, not just giving orders. Allow the employee opportunity to share their own expectations and concerns about the project to make sure you as the supervisor know in advance what issues might arise.
Step 2: Step Back
Once you’ve clearly established what outcomes or deliverables are expected from your employee, step back and let them do the work. The employee may find new ways to reach the goal that you would have never envisioned. As long as they stay within the established timeline and end up where they need to at the end, the path they take to get there should be their own to determine. Check in with the employee every so often to make sure they aren’t losing their way, though.
Step 3: Expect Failure
No first draft or prototype is ever really perfect, and sometimes, they’re far from it. Allow room for your employee to miss the mark somewhere, and make sure you keep room in your own schedule to coach them through those challenges. Independence isn’t something that’s obtained quickly overnight, so each time the employee fails, they’ll learn what to change or do differently for the next project without having to ask first.
Step 4: Iterate
Keep lines of communication open between yourself and the employee to find the perfect degree of independence for them. Some might want to get their assignment and not communicate again until they’ve got the final product to show you. Others might want to talk every day about their progress. It might take time to find the balance that works for both you and them.
Encouraging employee independence is a process that is different for every manager and every employee. What are some of the ways you’ve helped your employees become more self-directed and independent? Let us know in the comments.