Autonomy. The Ultimate Gift to Everyone in Your Life.

Have you been a helicopter boss? Helicopter parent? Helicopter friend? I have. Constantly restricting the flow of information so only you make the decisions. You make sure all procedures are followed to the letter….or else. You set unrealistic goals so that your direct report will certainly fail. You keep a tight grip on someone else’s autonomy so you can feel in control.

Have you been on the receiving end of this deal? This takes me back to my first husband who had a motorcycle. We went to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco so he could show me how to drive the bike. Well. When I got on the bike and started to push the throttle, he held onto the back of the bike and it practically tipped over. No injuries but he just couldn’t let go. End of bike lesson. I have never driven a motorcycle since.

autonomySo how do you give the gift of autonomy?

Here are some ideas.

Let them fail. Yep. You read that right. You need to be able to let the people in your life either at work or at home, fail. I know I just made some parents out there wince. What? Let Johnnie flunk out? Let Suzy lose her job for being tardy all the time? As Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. From failure comes immense learning and innovation. Autonomy is about letting them fail.

Quit expecting perfection. This is why managers don’t delegate. They want everything to be perfect. I have news for you. You never get to perfect. The perfect job, the perfect size, the perfect presentation. It is not attainable and paralyzes those around you. Acceptance of imperfection is where it’s at. People work harder if they know that you will be fair in your assessment and not point out every missed period or exclamation point :-)he he…

Ongoing and going and going positive feedback. If you did not get ongoing feedback from your mother, you would never have walked. So even if you fell down, she didn’t sit on the couch reading a newspaper. She gave you constant and ongoing feedback. So think about that the next time you delegate an important task. Dr. Marcial Losada created and studied this ratio of positive to negative messages within relationships and organizations. What he found was that organizations that have 2.9 or more positive messages over negative messages thrive. Those that fall below fail. In a marriage, it’s got to be 5.0 or better (thanks for emptying the garbage, Honey). Give positive feedback.

Don’t focus on problems. Focus on best outcomes. Ask your friend about what his best outcome would be. Focus on The What that he’s interested in. So Joe, “What would you like to see happen with this project?” “What can you control in this situation?” “What would make you feel like you accomplished something?” As David Rock espouses, focus on solutions (and stay clear of the problems). Keep it outcome based.

Don’t always have the answer. I am completely and utterly guilty of this. I am the Answerer in Chief. Life is one giant Jeopardy game and I’ll take Potpourri for $1000. Autonomy is all about your co-workers figuring things out on their own. If you always are giving the answers, they will never learn to “do” or “think”for themselves; they will merely mimic you. Autonomy is all about folks doing their own thinking. Let them make the connections. Teachers don’t give exams and sit there and give all the answers….right?

Mindset, talent and skills are not fixed. Embrace the growth mindset. As Carol Dweck defines it,

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

Autonomy involves having the growth mindset. Don’t look at what they can’t do, look at the possibility of what they can do.

So there you have it. How to encourage those in your life to have more autonomy. One of the three parts of motivation in his book Drive as written by Daniel Pink – autonomy, mastery and purpose. Pink says “Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” Imagine what we all could achieve with more autonomy. So give it away starting today.

Originally published on Change Your Thoughts on September 26, 2015

52 Weeks of Showing Up

This is it.  I have been blogging weekly for one solid year.  Woo hoo! I have to say that when I started this, I wasn’t sure it I could do it.  As my husband can tell you, I am not a quitter.  In fact, I’ve been described as tenacious (on more than one occasion) but I was very uncertain when I started this blog, 52 weeks ago.  The biggest lesson I have learned is, that I just need to show up. Showing up does not mean being “perfect”.  It means putting one foot in front of the other; even when you are tired.  It means writing when only 5 people have subscribed.  It’s when you would much rather sleep in or surf Facebook.  Trust – Just show up.

As Seth Godin says ,”Don’t just start. Continue. Ship. Repeat.”  I thought the hardest step was starting.  I have found out that repeat is the hardest step.  It’s so easy to say, “Well, maybe this should be a bi-weekly blog, maybe monthly…maybe quarterly”.  We’ve all been there.  The goal, finish line starts to slide or fade.  Excuses flood your brain.  The Inner Dictator takes over and tells you that your stuff is just no good anyway.  Trust me; you can win the battle if you just show up.

Here are some tips to help keep you on track:

1.  Preparation.  If you want to run a marathon, put your running shoes by your bed the night before.  If you want to cook at home more, make a shopping list for the week.  If you want to write a weekly blog, have a list of ideas to pick and choose from and make sure you are reading or listening or scanning the environment for ideas for that list.  If you only wait for inspiration, you’ll be waiting a long time.  Preparation is critical to showing up.

2. Routine.  I block off 30 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday morning to write.  I can set my watch by devoted runners in my neighborhood.  “Oh, there’s Mike and his friends on a Sunday morning; must be 9 AM. Or  –  It’s six o’clock, I better see what I’m making for dinner from the pile of recipes I selected on Saturday.”  If you have a routine, your body and mind are on auto pilot.  You don’t even think about it (and there is no time for the Inner Dictator to protest).  Once you have established the routine; it’s so much easier to show up for yourself.

3. Messy.  Embrace some messiness.  It won’t be perfect.  So just get over it.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  I’m not enthralled with every post I wrote, but overall, I am proud of the blog.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  I am amazed that often, that the least “inspired” post gets tons of feedback.  And the one I thought was a masterpiece, barely gets noticed.  Sometimes, I think the post that is most from the heart has the best “legs” and the post that has been “primped, preened and edited to death” is ho-hum.  Let it be messy; don’t be your own judge.  Others will.

4. Neighbors.  As in, quit worrying about your neighbors, and what they might say.  As Eleanor Roosevelt said “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”  Worrying about acceptance will grip you with fear.  Maybe only one person reads the post, and no one else does.  That’s fine.  I remember being shocked when I realized about two months ago that my site had been clicked on from 46 different countries.  46!  Global.  I had no idea.  Who knew I had so many “neighbors”.

5. End in mind.  My best writing is when I am talking to someone.  An ex boss, a client, a friend or my child; when I’m trying to inspire them to action.  When I was training for a 10k, last year, I had the race in mind every day.  When I’m planning for a dinner party; it’s the same thing.  Imagine success.  Breath it.  Embody it.  Be it. Keep the end in mind and you cannot fail.

6. Yes.  Try to say yes to things that support your goals.  Someone asks you to be on the panel of a Success Panel; say Yes.  Invites you to a Peer-to Peer group an hour’s drive away; say Yes.  Asks you to teach a Leadership class; say Yes. As Hunter S. Thompson said “Half of life is just showing up”.  It might be a hassle.  It might even be scary.  It might stretch your comfort zone.  You can’t get there unless you say Yes .

I couldn’t have shown up this last year without an audience.  I thank all of you; from those who have read one or two posts to my ardent weekly readers.  I appreciate all the feedback whether from my local Rotary club or from the middle of the Pacific via cyberspace.

What do you need to be showing up for?