As a leader, how well do you know your team? Would a significant number of them would do the wrong thing if you weren’t around to keep an eye on them?

Do you listen to what your team are telling you? How much airtime do people with less experience get in your business?

What are the risks of letting go of control and allowing your team to make more of the decisions?

Your beliefs about your team are having an impact on your business

If you think that a large proportion of your workforce would act against the best interests of the company given the freedom to do so, that belief will inhibit your business – whether or not your belief has any validity at all. Your beliefs change your behaviour and others’ responses. So believing that experience is a person’s most valuable asset may stop you hearing innovative solutions and great questions that those with much less experience offer. 

Waiting for the ‘perfect’ team

There’s a significant proportion of business leaders that recognise changes to the way we work need to be made. Often they’re held back by a feeling they need to wait until they have all the ‘right’ people on the team before they make the necessary changes. That decision can affect the business in two ways: it means that the necessary change gets delayed and that the potential of the current workforce is never fully realised. You won’t know whether you have the right people on board until you free them to do what’s needed.

The risks

So, what are the risks of giving your team more freedom and of listening to those with less experience?

Risk 1 – People will stop doing what’s required of them

Without a clear sense of direction for the organisation, this may be true. But the same may be true now if your team don’t have clearly defined goals and a system that shares the progress made towards those goals. The answer is not to tell employees what to do, but to tell them what outcomes you’re looking for in the long term and the principles by which you want them to operate. Then support them to achieve their goals.

Risk 2 – You’ll get less out of people than you need from them or pay them for

Experience and research show that motivation increases with autonomy. By ensuring that your team’s energy is focused in the right direction, you’ll find people are more productive and you get more for your money not less. And even the least experienced employees can bring new ideas about running your business and serving your customers, so long as they’re supported to raise them.

Risk 3 – You’ll lose sight of what’s happening in your business

Few employers are able to effectively oversee every detail of their business. By giving employees the freedom to take on more responsibility, there’s less likelihood of anything important being missed. But you don’t need to miss out. Work out what’s really vital for you and other stakeholders to know, then use technology and collaborative platforms to collate and share it.

Risk 4 – You won’t know where people are when you need them or won’t be able to contact them

Giving employees the freedom and structure to deal quickly with challenges and opportunities that arise might mean that they’re not immediately available to you. It should also mean that, rather than constantly firefighting, they’re able to deal with most situations that arise before they escalate. If you find there are regular emergencies when it’s vital you must talk to someone immediately, take a close look at why those emergencies are happening. Continually fighting fires is an exhausting and inefficient way to operate; even the fire brigade works to prevent fires.

Risk 5 – You’ll make the wrong decision because you’ve listened to people who don’t know what they’re talking about

Experience shows that when you give people the responsibility to make decisions, together with advice about how to make them, they take that responsibility seriously. Similarly, you may take advice from those around you but if the final decision is yours, take responsibility for it. Encourage your team to take the same approach to the decisions they make too.

Risk 6 – People will make different decisions than you would have made, and sometimes they’ll get it wrong

True, but they might also make better decisions and more quickly, especially if they’re closer to the action than you are or have more up to date knowledge. If they don’t have either of those, you might want to look at how to help them achieve them. Mistakes and failures are always opportunities for learning. Work together to ensure they’re caught early and small whenever possible.

What next?

You must weigh up the risks of change for your own business and whether they still outweigh the risks of doing nothing. There are significant benefits from making a change, alongside ways to manage and mitigate risk, and. If you’d like to have a conversation to explore this further and assess the risks for your organisation, get in touch.