With Freedom Comes Responsibility
This was one of the key messages from the Mix Mashup that I attended in San Francisco this week. The conference was amazing. I am rarely around so many powerful thinkers. By the end of the day, my brain was exhausted, but in a good way.
It was very exciting to be around people who are thinking about and talking about and researching the same ideas that Maddie and wrote about in Humanize. One theme that came up a lot was openness and decentralization. Most were in agreement that there was great power available in the periphery of our organizations, we just needed to figure out how to set that power free.
But as the saying goes, with freedom comes great responsibility. Interestingly, however, the responsibility I am thinking of here exists more at the center of the organization than at the periphery. If we (at the center) are going to give them (at the periphery) more freedom, then I think we have the responsibility to give them the tools, information, and clarity that they need to responsibly use their freedom.
Too often, we set people free without giving them what they need. We demand people take “ownership” over their job, yet we give them only very high level strategic guidance that doesn’t help them make their own decisions, or we counteract our own demand by holding them accountable to a very detailed and specific job description. We’re then disappointed with the way they handled their freedom, leading us to retain even more control than before.
In traditional organizations we set people up for failure like this all the time. If you’re in the center of your organization, maybe you need a new job description that helps you focus more on enabling freedom. It might include making sure everyone knows enough about the business end of the organization to make smart resource decisions. Working through the conflict at the senior team level so you can produce clear strategic principles, rather than lofty high-end visions that everyone supports, but don’t help them make decisions.
Let’s start setting up our people for success.