I am a flag-flying, proud American. As such, I grew up believing in the power and privilege of freedom. I believe that freedom is a good thing. As an adult, I know that it is possible to have too much of a good thing, including freedom. When it comes to work freedom, there is definitely a point where it is too much.
What Does Freedom at Work Mean?
Freedom at work means that people are able to exercise their talents and are empowered to make meaningful decisions and take meaningful actions. It doesn’t mean people can do whatever they want. It doesn’t mean everyone is a free agent. People are a part of something larger than themselves that they are accountable to and responsible for.
A healthy and productive level of freedom at work requires a balance between personal freedom and organizational responsibility – and that is the point of this article.
The Power of Boundaries
In society boundaries come in the form of laws. In the workplace they come in the form of policies, guidelines, and expectations. While on the surface this may seem restrictive, in practice when people know what is expected, it raises their confidence and helps them know what to strive for.
Yes, boundaries can be restrictive, micromanagement can reign, and freedoms and personal empowerment can be stifled. But the right boundaries at the right levels allow people to be channeled and focused, and properly see themselves as a part of something they can contribute to, meeting a basic human need.
Simply stated, without a clear picture of the boundaries and expectations people cannot perform at their best.
Where is the Balance Point?
In society there is a word for too much freedom: lawlessness. In that state there is chaos, and often conflict. Clearly these are not things we desire in our society or organizations. That is why a balance must be struck that allows for personal investment and accountability and clarity of organizational needs and objectives.
Finding the right balance point starts with understanding where you are now. Do people feel stifled and perhaps even insulted by policies and procedures? Do people know both the mission and goals, as well as specific expectations of their work? As a leader you cannot assess this in your own. For example, few managers desire to be micromanagers, yet most of us have experienced it. This is just one example of the disconnect between our personal perception and the reality our team members are experiencing.
Make it you’re your goal in the next month to understand how people feel about their level of work freedom – and how close it is to the balance you want and need. Open a conversation about how to empower individuals while tapping their talents to reach organizational goals.
When you have the conversation, you begin to let freedom unfurl people’s potential, increase retention and engagement, and drive greater organizational results.
If you want to learn how to balance freedom and boundaries, and become a more effective leader, the From Manager to Remarkable Leader learning experience is for you. When you join me virtually, you become part of a small group of leaders who, like you, want to learn and apply cutting-edge ideas grounded in and connected to timeless principles. This six-session, virtually delivered learning experience is packed with insights and opportunities to learn from me and your peers. Learn more, find dates, and get registered here.
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