“I’ve had it! I’m leaving this Hell! Good luck finding someone to put up with your Sh*t! You’ve got a whole month to find yourself another sucker! And by the way, I’ve got plenty of vacation days left, so you won’t be seeing me around the office much next week, but don’t worry, I’m sure Bob can takeover!”
The door slams and you hear, “Bob, Hahaha!“
Bam. It can happen that quick. Feeling underpaid and under-appreciated, a star player leaves, with intentions to start his own firm and run it his own way. But strangely enough, it doesn’t really go his way. By just about any measurement available, things are about to get much worse for this enterprising talent.
He’ll works longer hours without earning any more than his previous salary, once he pays his vendors and covers overhead. He’ll shoulder more pressure now, because if he doesn’t sell, he doesn’t eat. And though his wife does her best to be supportive, there are times when she won’t be able to help but to lash out at him over his frequent absence from the family.
The irony is, he’ll likely feel much better about his circumstances now than when he had his steady gig. There have been several studies that measure the subjective well being of employees before and after they launch out on there own. And they frequently say strange things, such as they are enjoying more work-life balance as an entrepreneur than as an employee, even though the numbers clearly indicate otherwise. But why is that? I’m suggesting here that it’s our innate craving for autonomy. Our subjective well being, motivation, and self-efficacy are all greatly influenced by whether or not we believe we have reasonable control of the situation that we are in.
A very powerful illustration comes from research in nursing homes for the elderly. Ellen Langer, a Psychology professor at Harvard, found that life expectancy and health outcomes could be influenced by increasing the level of choice for the residents, even in trivial matters. Choices like deciding between omelets or pancakes for breakfast, watering the plants in their room, or which movie they watch on movie night actually effected the length of people’s lives!
So what effect do you think you might be having when you outline precisely what you want your team to do, when you want them to do it, and exactly how you want it done? That’s one way to look at the issue, another is, what could happen in your business if your talent were excited to get to work everyday because they empowered in their work?
Be careful, you might find your business profiting insanely.
You may be familiar with Google’s “20% Time,” where employees are allowed to use up to 20% of their working time to develop anything they want. Gmail, Google News, and Google Adwords, all were a product of self-directed work. So maybe you can’t afford not to give up a degree of control.
Thoughts from a NLPer
- Grab yourself a copy of Drive from Daniel Pink. This book sheds light on what motivates us, largely debunking Rewards & Punishments motivation myths. He speaks on giving your employees Autonomy as one of the three primary levers for Intrinsic Motivation. A point of particular interest might be the business case he makes for Results Only Work Environments. Overall it’s a great read with highly actionable content.
- Take 5 minutes and brainstorm a list of simple choices that you could give your employees around the office. It’s doesn’t matter if it seems insignificant to you,choice is choice. Oddly enough, gamblers are more likely to step to a table that has two available Russian Roulette wheels than a table that only has one. Theres no rational basis for this choice, besides the fact that the unconscious mind simply prefers having a choice!
- Here’s what you could do to intervene at the unconscious level. You could start to notice, what happens as you begin imagining giving your employees more autonomy over their tasks. Many of us resist this because giving up control is scary! Notice how that resistance manifests itself. Which of your muscles tighten and which loosen? How does your breathing shift? Does it feel like certain parts of your body are colder or warmer than other parts? What sense of motion is there in your gut, chest, or mind? What is this emotion like?
- Now drop that image from your mind, and focus on creating a deep and steady breathing pattern. I recommend trying out the Box Breathing Technique that former Navy Seal Mark Divine made popular. Four seconds breathing in, hold for four seconds, four seconds breathing out, hold for four seconds, and repeat the cycle. After about four minutes of focused breathing, again imagine giving an employee more autonomy. Notice the ways your internal sensations about this have changed, as this change is a good sign that you might be more prepared to let go of the reigns the next time the opportunity presents itself.
Let’s start the discussion…
What have you found is a great way to increase your own sense of control in life? I’d love to hear your stories or other research you’ve found. In what ways have you seen former employers fail in this regard? I respond to every comment.
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