How To Let Your Employees Soar (and look good in the process)

Photo: Bethany Legg —

Photo: Bethany Legg —

Employers are often looking for a simple 1- 2- 3- step process that will make all their employees feel happy and engaged.

There is no such magical process — but the model I’ve found to be the most simple and still comprehensive in predicting whether someone wakes up invigorated for their work day ahead, and comes home satisfied with a job well done — is from Daniel Pink’s book, “Drive.”

He says that a job needs to provide three things:

  1. Mastery— We want to always be getting better at something, or learning something new that adds to our overall experience
  2. Autonomy— Flexibility and decision making power to ‘do it our own way’
  3. Purpose— We want to feel our efforts are making a contribution to the bigger picture — something positive that is bigger than ourselves

When I put this model up against the hundreds of people I’ve coached, it fits nearly every case. When someone isn’t generally content about their work — aside from the ‘little things' here and there — then one or more of these is off balance.

Let’s talk about one of those – Autonomy – and what you can do to foster it at all level of your organization.

First, EACH employee must have ownership over at least one process, no matter how small.

What improves when an employee has some sense of autonomy?

The Manager is freed up. They’re no longer answering questions all day or wasting their time micromanaging.

The manager also looks good to everyone in the organization because they have a team of lit up, engaged, efficient, empowered employees who are capable of making strategic decisions individually in a way that is appropriate to their role. And they serve all the stakeholders in the organization — the employee, manager, leadership team, investors, etc. An autonomous employee can contribute to the bigger picture and therefore their bottom line better than a micromanaged employee. Who doesn't want that?

But how does this benefit Employees?

They will be more satisfied and engaged, and therefore bring their best selves to work. Per Mr. Pink, having control over how they do their work gives people a chance to grow and learn. This Mastery is another tenant of Pink’s model. 

Employees will be more comfortable making decisions, all the while knowing you as their manager will have their back.

The Company benefits from this too. Their employees will have an ear to the ground, understand the context in which they work and feel empowered to make decisions in the company’s best interest.

By giving context and autonomy you empower people to make the same decision you would make in that role.

Your employees will be satisfied, engaged, adding great value and getting credit for it as they progress on their career.

And that’s a win/win.

if you'd like to discuss how we help can create more autonomous employees in your organization, visit the contact page or send an email to