Building autonomous teams

4 Lessons 15 minutes completion time

What you'll learn:

This course will cover the benefits of an autonomous team, how to promote autonomy, and what to avoid when building an autonomous team.

How to promote autonomy for teams

Defining clear roles and responsibilities is just the first step in building an autonomous team. There are many other ways you can promote the idea of autonomy to your employees. The first thing you’ll want to do is properly prepare them to be autonomous. This starts with ensuring the team is aligned with its team goals and understands the business goals. You can do this by defining why these goals are important. Explain how the team’s work will impact the overall business and what you want to achieve not just today but in the future. If team members can then articulate those business objectives in their own words, they’re ready. 

Next, you can provide opportunities for transparent communication. Many leaders struggle to provide autonomy, as they fear it’ll cause misalignment. To avoid this, set the team up with specific times or meetings for people to share how they’re doing. This reduces the feeling of micromanagement, as the team now has an agreed-upon system for sharing updates, and the manager doesn’t need to constantly watch over people’s shoulders. Whether it’s a more formal quarterly business review or just informally scheduled check-ins, having those defined sessions will help set expectations.

But what if the team, or a member of the team, is fairly new and you haven’t built that level of trust yet? Start small. Provide members that opportunity to showcase autonomy, but perhaps give them just a piece of a project or a much smaller project to run on their own. The key is to give them tasks where failure is OK as long as they’re learning from it. Don’t throw them into the fire right away! Not everyone will be ready to lead on their own right from the start.

A team can’t be autonomous if it doesn’t have an avenue to understand one another. Help the team understand where they stand as a team and what their strengths, shortcomings, and preferences are. PI’s Team Discovery tool defines your team’s collective style based on behavioral preferences of each team member. Check out the different Team Types that you might have in the interactive below.

The Team Discovery tool also helps determine your team’s strategy, for a clear understanding of the work to be done. Setting a clear path for your team through objectives or KPIs is pivotal. This ensures that even if you let go of the reins, your team can easily lead the way since you have that shared vision.

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