Why giving employees the freedom of choice is so powerful

How internal locus of control boosts performance and practical tips for facilitating choice in organisations

What is internal locus of control?

  1. Convince us we’re in control
  2. Endow our actions with larger meaning

The comfort of control

How to tap into the wisdom of employees in an organisation

  1. Give employees full control— as Charles Duhigg said, the choices most powerful for generating motivation convince us we’re in control. Most managers are frustrated that when they give employees the opportunity to be involved in something, they don’t seem particularly motivated. Why? Because they know they don’t really have any say in the outcome — it’s the illusion of control. Make it clear that they alone are responsible for the outcome. So if they’re proposing ideas, let them choose the final solution and let them implement it.
  2. Give employees the responsibility for measuring the success of the outcome — endow people’s actions with meaning. This way, if they do come up with something ‘stupid’, they’ll learn why it’s stupid for themselves and be able to improve it. (In my experience though, employees don’t come up with something stupid, they come up with something brilliant.) Of course as a manager if you have useful experience or expertise, employees can still ask you for coaching or advice — so long as they have the power to choose whether they listen to you or not! The moment you interfere — however well-intentioned — you destroy their internal locus of control.
  3. Give employees the tools they need to be successful —give employees access to all the information they need to come up with a sound proposal. This might be finance figures or performance data. As well as information, employees will need to practice new skills. Managers and employees alike are not used to tapping into collective intelligence so they need to develop this as a habit. Liberating Structures are a collection of 33 different tools that help you do precisely this. Even using the simple ‘1–2–4-all’ discussion tool will make a big difference to productive meetings. Whatever tools or practices you choose, create a safe space and allow people the time to develop these skills — it won’t happen overnight.

--

--

Founder of Reimaginaire, trainer and coach with Tuff Leadership Training, host of Leadermorphosis podcast.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Lisa Gill

Founder of Reimaginaire, trainer and coach with Tuff Leadership Training, host of Leadermorphosis podcast.