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Monday, July 4, 2022

Independence at Work

On July 4, 1776, in a sweltering hall in Philadelphia, 56 men gathered to sign “the unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.” As we celebrate independence in the US how much independence is there to celebrate in your workplace?

Too many knowledge workers — professionals with immense talent, experience, and drive to do meaningful work — are stifled by managers who misunderstand what effective management means. In misguided attempts to boost productivity and direct innovation, managers can kill both creativity and passion — the intrinsic motivation required to stay deeply engaged in work — by destroying people’s autonomy.

Researchers measured the impact that money had on performance. For basic, non-thinking tasks more money equaled more output. Interestingly, if even a moderate amount of thinking was involved, more money resulted in a decline of performance.

The three top motivators were Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Autonomy focuses on the freedom to act independently. Employees given this freedom to work on projects or opportunities of interest added greater value to their organization through innovation and customer focus. Mastery is about the opportunity to get really good at something and purpose is a connection to the big picture.

One of the leader’s responsibilities is to continually remind people about purpose – how their work impacts the customer and the greater mission of the organization. It is easy to forget this and work can become a boring chore.

To be truly intrinsically motivated and to gain a sense of achievement when they do make progress, people need to have some say in their own work. What’s more, when employees have freedom in how to do the work, they are more creative.

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