Babysitters Club: How to Avoid Nannying Your Team And Create More Autonomy in Your Culture
As a founder of a small business do you sometimes feel like you’re babysitting your team? That they’re constantly looking to you for answers when in reality, even you don’t have all the answers?
Don’t fear, this is a feeling many founders go through when they’re building their business from the ground up. And it’s one that can be overcome and changed to help you create more autonomy in your company culture.
To start with, you need to face the fact that many of your team members may see you as the ‘superhero ceo’; the person who started the business and therefore has all the answers.
And let’s be honest, for a while you might have played into this role because your ego kind of liked the attention and enjoyed feeling needed, but now the business is growing and your attention needs to be on various areas of the business, you just don’t have the attention or the brainpower to be everyone’s hero.
To help you recover from your hero syndrome, and give everyone the opportunity to have more autonomy, I’ve covered the core changes you need to implement into your company culture to nurture more autonomy. Some of these ideas are simple, and some of them are radical. So it’s down to you how far you want to take it.
Ok, before we get to talking about actions and changes, we need to first discuss trust.
Could the reason you’ve been playing the superhero be because there’s a small, maybe even subconscious part of you that doesn’t fully trust your team to make the right decisions?
This is something you need to sit with and be able to answer.
To create autonomous teams the key ingredient is trust, and if you don’t have that for your team, nothing else you implement or change in your company culture will ever work. You’ll just come back to ground-zero – trust!
What are you afraid of with your team?
What happens if they did make a ‘wrong decision’ or ‘failed’ in some way? What’s the worst that could happen?
Strong autonomy and trust are clear indicators of positive company culture. There may be some work to do on your own mindset before you start implementing changes that encourage your team to take the reins on big decisions.
Say it Out Loud
The first step to recovery is saying it out loud. Yes, you need to be honest with your team and yourself that you were playing the superhero ceo. It’s an awkward conversation to have, but unless you don’t pull out the elephant in the room it’s going to remain there even while you try to implement other steps. Be bold, be brave and call it out.
By calling out your heroism to your team you make everyone conscious of it. Including yourself. You will then start to realise when you’re leaning back into your old ways, and call out your team when they’re doing it. “Hey, are you asking for my advice, or for the hero to save you?”
Of course, during this conversation, it’s essential to point out that you are still there as a team member and to help people incubate ideas, but you’re not there to make the decision for them, or give them permission.
Clearly Communicate Your Vision
One of the many stumbling blocks which can hold teams back from making decisions on their own is that they have no information or clear idea about what the end goal or vision is of the company.
Even as a start-up you need to know your vision and your mission and clearly communicate this to your team so they can make decisions that are directed with the vision in mind.
A vision for a company is often called the ‘North Star’, and this is because your team’s actions and behaviours should all be navigating towards this point.
If your team has no idea what the vision is, or aren’t fully bought into it then they’re going to continuously rely on you to make the decisions.
Share Your Mistakes
Your team may be holding back from taking responsibility for their decisions because they are afraid they are going to fail and be persecuted for it.
This culture of caution is a dangerous one for start-ups and small businesses because it stifles innovation and creative thinking.
In order to encourage your team to be bold and brave, you also need to own up to your failings and your mistakes when they happen. This vulnerable and authentic leadership will nurture your team in showing them that they too are in an environment that treats ‘failures’ with humility and curiosity rather than persecution.
Vulnerability and authenticity start from the top. Consider how you are showing up when things go wrong, and what your reaction is.
I’ve spoken before about the power of a coaching culture with Rebecca Lewis Smith Founder of Fountain Partnerships on the company culture podcast.
A coaching culture is one where you all learn the skills of coaching to support each other in getting to the decision. Rather than the old-fashion seek-permission concept.
By training your entire team in the skills of being a coach, you equip them with a strong tool whereby teams can coach each other to the decision they feel is best, and furthermore to understand where that decision has come from.
It’s a powerful tool in a company culture that only goes to strengthen decision-making and communication between team members.
From this style of coaching culture, you will find that people naturally become more autonomous as they begin to gain a much deeper understanding of their own decision-making tendencies, and increase their self-awareness.
Decentralise the Power
The very foundation of your company culture, your organisational structure, maybe the very thing that’s also limiting your team from becoming more autonomous.
Just think about it for a moment. In a traditional hierarchy, all power is held at the top, which immediately means people gravitate towards those with a higher title in order to make the decision. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly those with the power are seen as those with the responsibility to make that decision, and secondly, the limiting power structure means people naturally gravitate towards gaining buy-in from the higher power for their decision.
It’s no wonder that self-managed organisations are growing as more businesses look to adopt structures that provide a foundation for autonomous teams to truly thrive.
In a self-managed organisation, the power is decentralised, meaning that within particular rules and guidelines agreed by the team, anyone has the power to make a decision that impacts their role or work.
It’s no good just ‘empowering’ teams to be more autonomous, in many ways we need to change the rules so they have to become more autonomous.
If you would like more support or guidance on creating a culture of autonomy, contact me about my company culture coaching where I can help support you and your team to build a stronger, more agile culture.