Control vs autonomy dilemma

A tale of every entrepreneur

You need to be constantly nurturing talent. People who can replace you tomorrow. (Image credit)
  1. Autonomy: Control over what needs to be done, and how and when it will be done.
  2. Growth: The feeling that while you are contributing to the growth of the business, the experience is contributing to your growth as a professional.
  3. Purpose: You see the work you do as a higher calling and not just as a paycheck.

GIVING AUTONOMY IS TOUGH

As countless founders will tell you, it is tough to give autonomy to their resources, and often, it is not because founders find it difficult to relinquish control, but because it can be tough to understand how to give autonomy to your employees while you are also driving the business towards a singular grand vision.

I won’t deny that “difficulty to relinquish control” is also a huge contributing factor, but often it is so because of that challenge in understanding how to deal with the whole autonomy scale.

Founders want their businesses to constantly move towards the grander vision, and as such different teams are working on different aspects of the business, and the founder tries to keep an eye on the bigger picture — how those different pieces come together and act in harmony to create a business that is as beautiful as a symphony.

WHAT ARE THE TWO EXTREMES OF AUTONOMY?

The CEO, of one of the companies I worked with, was detail-oriented. He knew what were the different marketing strategies he wanted to execute, and he would detail them out to a T in neatly organized documents. That’s how I started working as well. He would tell me of the different things he expected to happen, what all he expected to be happening in those areas, and what was the roadmap they were supposed to follow. It was all there laid out for me the day I started. For a good few weeks, that was what I did. What was being expected out of me. What the documents were telling me to do.

HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT FINDING THAT SWEET SPOT?

Take that first company for example. There were a number of perceptions employees had about the CEO, and one of them was that he is a control freak. To be honest, that is what my experience of the first couple of weeks could have resulted in me agreeing to that as well. But I wasn’t yet sold on it. And as I would later find out, it wasn’t true.

WHY GIVING ANATOMY IS CRUCIAL

Do you know what is the biggest contribution of entrepreneurs? They create entrepreneurs! And that is what this whole anatomy debate is about.

No matter what I have done, I have always worked towards a point where I am able to make myself redundant in the organization.

That is the way to growth. You foster talent, you hold their hands, you help them see what is what, you help in the process of refining and molding and evolving their thought process. You should always work towards the point where you are no longer needed, and it is then that you take off the training wheels and let them run free.

BUT…GRANTING AUTONOMY TOO SOON IS ALSO A MISTAKE

That 100x dream can be enticing, isn’t it? But make no mistake, if you take off the training wheels prematurely, it does more harm to the business than good. You will end up with a living breathing organism within your company that is unable to function on its own, unable to breathe without life support. And before you realize it, you would be consumed with undoing the damage this premature move did.

WHAT DO I PERSONALLY HANDLE GIVING AUTONOMY?

I have already mentioned what the goal is — to make myself redundant in any process I am currently involved in. So how do I do that?

  1. Are you pushing decision-making as far down the rabbit hole as you can?
  2. Would it create a chaos if you pushed it further down the organization? What do you need to do to get to a point where the bottom can be pushed down bit further?
  3. Can you add levels of autonomy in their current working methodology, and gradually keep on adding more layers to it? How would you go about doing that?
  4. If you are unavailable for a few days/weeks, how would your business function in your absence? How do you improve that?

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow…hopefully!

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Abhishek Anand

Helping businesses grow 10x faster, and scale efficiently. Top Writer — Quora, Medium. Drop in a line if you’d like help with yours. mail@abyshake.com