Autonomy was not a concept applied regularly in my past work experiences. I was used to submitting requests for approval, always deferring to a manager above me. This not only delayed the implementation process, it also lead to feelings of constraint on my end. I knew I was capable of executing without going through the regular chain of command, however, this was just the way it was done.

When I joined the Actionable Team, I quickly came to learn that autonomy is imperative in a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), and closely tied with the core values of Actionable.

I remember taking the reins on Social Media and asking if there were any guidelines or procedures I should be following in my strategy. The response was “here is what we are currently doing, however, we trust that you have the knowledge and expertise to create and implement a strategy that will grow our following and keep our audience active and engaged.”

I was given the trust and freedom to execute a strategy I felt would lead to positive results. I didn’t have to jump through hoops to prove myself, or gain the approval of my superiors prior to executing on this project. Trust and approval was given to me freely. How refreshing!

Managers or team leaders reading this may be questioning the sanity of my employer. He didn’t know my skill level yet. What if I dropped the ball? I would argue that he wouldn’t have hired me in the first place if he wasn’t confident that I could do the job. Furthermore, this was not a “you’re on your own—sink or swim” scenario. I had, and continue to have, the full support from my team members, and weekly collaborative meetings to continually refine and improve our strategy. We are a team, and we work “better together”—a core value of Actionable.

Being given freedom and trust from the beginning motivated me to not only perform my duties, but to go above and beyond expectations to prove that this freedom was not misplaced. I wanted to prove that I am more than capable of taking on projects with my team, and am eager and able to take on more projects as we grow.

Knowing that I had independence from day one at Actionable motivated me to work hard right away—I didn’t want to lose the faith that my team leader had in my abilities. This sense of autonomy, trust, and camaraderie ties in perfectly with the core values that underline the Actionable Culture.

At Actionable, these simple values permeate everything we do. We are a collaborative team, with a no door policy (even more access that a mere open-door policy), doing work that matters! We work independently with trust in our fellow teammates to pull together and execute on projects as a team.

Like any work environment, there are also pitfalls to avoid. The level of responsibility and autonomy I have also means I have no-one to blame but myself if I drop the ball. To succeed in this kind of environment requires excellent time-management skills and to be constantly aware of other people’s time. Team members are working on their own deliverables, so they may not be immediately available to give input if I need it. We use Slack and other tools to stay in touch in our virtual environment, but it still helps to be ahead of schedule as much as possible.

Autonomy also means I can’t get lazy—as tempting as it is to curl up with a book on a rainy afternoon, or take the day off when I have the sniffles, the work still needs to get done. An afternoon away means a late night the next day, and I have to be prepared to take ownership of the decisions I make. But the autonomy I have motivates me to work hard and contribute to the team on a daily basis.  

From the perspective of an employee, if your goal is to increase employee motivation, engagement, or morale, one of the most effective actions you can take is to give your employees more autonomy. I am lucky enough to live this first hand, and I can honestly tell you—it works!