Two women stand side-by-side at a point-of-sale machine in a bar or restaurant. The woman on the right is smiling and typing something into the screen of the POS machine; she has short dark hair that is turning gray at the temples, and she is wearing a gray apron over a dark blue collared shirt with white polka dots. The woman on the left is looking at what the other woman is typing; she is wearing the same gray apron over a mustard yellow shirt. Behind them are a counter and shelves lined with bottles and glasses.
Encouraging employees' autonomy doesn't mean leaving them without guidance. Managers should regularly check in to answer questions, discuss goals, and set expectations. — Getty Images/Ridofranz

Companies that grant their employees autonomy — the flexibility to work at their own pace, and prioritize on their own — can have hidden financial benefits. Research from Gallup shows that CEOs who excel in delegating generate 33% higher revenue. Office cultures that value autonomy have higher morale, higher productivity, and lower employee productivity.

Granting autonomy to your team can be difficult for some managers. It requires a certain level of trust, as well as checks and balances to make sure work is getting accomplished as agreed and on time. If you’re struggling to foster autonomy in your organization, try some of these steps.

Establish the right principles

Many managers and business owners confuse autonomy and flexibility. These are not the same thing: An organization can offer flexibility that doesn’t always translate to autonomy. For instance, a policy that allows its employees to work from home some days but requires them to be in the office Mondays and Wednesdays is somewhat flexible but not very autonomous.

Following this example, an autonomous workplace would enforce principles, rather than concrete policies. Rather than requiring a minimum of three days per week in the office, embrace the principle that employees can determine the location that will enable them to perform most effectively. Provide support, such as remote-working tools, that empowers employees to make this decision based on their own best interests.

[Read more: 6 Ways to Balance Managing Employees While Giving Them Freedom]

Learn how to delegate

Delegating is the antidote to micromanagement and a key strategy for building trust with your employees. Practice giving your employees the authority to make decisions without getting approval every step of the way. Set clear goals and make sure employees have the resources they need to work independently. Rather than telling someone, step-by-step, how to get to the desired outcome, focus instead on ensuring they have what they need to succeed.

Create an accountability loop

Enforcing autonomy doesn’t mean completely stepping away; there still needs to be some accountability to make sure teams are coordinating productively.

If a project doesn’t go exactly as planned, consider it a growth opportunity and lesson learned for next time.

Lauren Landry, Harvard Business School Online

“Autonomy and flexibility only work if managers frequently connect with their employees to discuss tasks, set goals, set expectations, and provide feedback. If a remote working situation isn’t working out, managers should take some accountability for the employee’s failure to deliver,” wrote Fast Company.

Train your managers to be hands-on in meaningful ways that promote good work. Enforcing a policy regarding when someone should be in the office is less likely to lead to high performance than setting regular individual check-in sessions. Make sure your team is clear on the difference between accountability and micromanagement, too. A leader’s role is to give the team the resources they need and to provide guidance as needed.

Let go of perfectionism

There is more than one way to solve a problem. Your employee’s approach likely won’t be the same as yours; that’s the beauty of hiring a team with diverse perspectives and experiences. Not every approach will work out the way you hope, and that’s OK.

“Reward creativity and prepare for potential mishaps that might come from enabling your employees to try new things. If a project doesn’t go exactly as planned, consider it a growth opportunity and lesson learned for next time,” wrote Harvard Business School.

Don’t let perfectionism get in the way of progress. Regroup, provide constructive feedback, and try again.

Invest in the right tools

Autonomy requires the right technology to be able to work anywhere, anytime. This means investing in laptops, headsets, video conferencing software, and other wireless paraphernalia. It might also mean ending your office lease and offering coworking memberships to those who like to meet in person. Talk to your team about what would enable them to work most productively at home or in person. Everyone has different requirements that should be taken into account.

[Read more: 7 Tips for Young Managers With More Experienced Employees]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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