In this article, I am going to talk about how to create self-managed employees. We will look how to motivate employees to get the job done by having the employees tell you what they are going to get done.
Let’s ask a question. Of these two, which task is more likely to get accomplished: The task that I told you to do or the task that you told me you were going to do?
Any company that is going somewhere has set a direction. Companies reach their destination using different roadmaps or methodologies but they are all comprised of these similar concepts: Company Mission -> Strategies -> Goals and Objectives -> and, finally, the Action Plan.
The action plan is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. It is that point where people begin taking action to achieve the stated goals of the company.
In a typical organization, as the corporate goals filter down the ladder, managers will meet with their employees to discuss the particular actions that need to be accomplished.
Too often, these conversations are one-sided. The manager will tell the employee what they need to accomplish within a certain time period. Here is such an example in the technology field:
Manager: Jim (employee), I need you to develop a robust web authentication system to increase security for our reservation system by November. In doing this, you will achieve our stated company goal of heightening the security of all of our systems.
This approach, still practiced by most companies, has a number of flaws but foremost among them is lack of employee participation. What is the employee going to say? “Ummm, no sir, sorry, I will not do that.”
Since this approach employs blind acceptance, the employee contributes nothing to the discussion. In fact, you may not even know if they are truly capable of accomplishing this goal (see Should Technical Project Managers Be Technical?).
There is a much better project managerial strategy that will accomplish more and create self-managed employees: Ask the employees what actions they can take to fulfill the corporate mission and goals.
“What?”, many managers ask, “…and allow the inmates to run the asylum?”
As the manager, you know what needs to be accomplished and you probably have an idea who can best accomplish which task. But, you might also be wrong, a fact that you will never discover if you do not interact with your employees.
So, rather than arbitrarily dictate action items to your employees, lay out the goals and action items of your department and ask them which actions items that they would like to pursue, if they have the skills to achieve the stated objective, and how long it will take to accomplish.
When you deal with employees in this manner, you have activated them. They told you what they are going to accomplish.
When an employee tells you what they are going to do, it is much more likely to get done.
This is a self-managed employee.