Born Free – Creating Workplace Independence

In honor of Independence Day, we are skipping to number 15 on Indeed’s list of why employees leave their jobs which is “wanting more independence.” The article explains that “Some managers use micromanaging as a way to keep track of everything you do. This can make you feel like you need more independence and autonomy in your role. A quality employer is one who trusts their employees and gives them a chance to figure out things on their own.”

The celebration we have each July 4th – Independence Day in America, is to commemorate the end of the Revolutionary War and our country’s freedom from Great Britain accompanied by the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The definition of independence varies from freedom from the control or influence of others to the quality or state of being independent. There are a few other ways to describe independence that also have relevance in the workplace:

  1. Not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct;
  2. Not requiring or relying on others; and
  3. Not subject to control by others.

One of the classic movies I watched growing up was Born Free – you can watch the trailer here or stream full movie on Apple TV. It is about a couple, Joy and George Adamson, who raise a lion cub they named Elsa in Africa.  Instead of choosing to turn her over to a zoo when she is grown because they could no longer keep her, they chose to train her to survive in the wild because they wanted her to have freedom despite the dangers of the wild. The movie takes on a myriad of emotion as the couple wants not only to train Elsa to be independent in the wild but thrive as well.

Business owners and supervisors have a tough job. Just like teaching Elsa, during the onboarding process business owners must teach an employee the company’s mission, vision, their responsibilities and tasks associated with their job, all while acclimating them to the company culture and compatibility with their peers in a quest for them to have independence in their position. When it comes to construction and most small businesses the people responsible for training must make time to do this while also completing their own full-time jobs and responsibilities without a trainee in tow, thereby giving up some of their own independence.

Joy and George tried to follow a process to train Elsa. They had challenges along the way with incompatibility with another lion, attack from another species, injury from a wild lion pack to name a few. In addition, they were running out of time for Elsa to acclimate to being independent because of the governing authority.

For those of you responsible for the success of onboarding new employees you know the feeling of trying to move a new hire along their job independence journey. The onboarding program may be outlined, yet each new hire will need specialism to the program in order for their optimum success. This takes time and patience. Oftentimes the new employee has challenges with another employee they have to interact with or outside vendors not wanting to work with someone new; all while executives and organization ownership have expectations on the ramp up time and cost.

The most common recommended steps when training is the “show them, help them, then let them show you” method. Sounds simple except each person you are training is different and some additional steps may be required for success. A few of them are outlined below.

Repeat for Circumstances

Remember, just because your new trainee may do it well when you get to the “show them” part, it doesn’t mean that they will continue to do so. People forget, and instructors sometimes forget that the training and real-world play differs with circumstances and time. Keeping accountability checks, repeating the process until it solidifies combined with praise for the part they do remember will help the employee through the process until they can do their job and make the necessary job decisions on their own.

Previous Experience or Title is Just What It’s Called

The Florida Construction Connection article called “Know Your Vessel Before You Take the Helm” has been one of our most well received writings, helping both new hires understand that despite their title being the same from one company to the next, the new company, new company job outline and relationships will differ and are extremely important to respect and learn. Acknowledging a learning curve is not a weakness, but a strength. Wanting to know the company shows dedication to the position and the organization.

Effective Communication Eliminates Micromanagement

A+B = C and B+A= C. Although the A and the B in the equation can have nuances like different fonts, the results are the same. Just the same, some companies and supervisors will require that you follow an exact protocol to be successful, nuances aside. If that is making you feel micromanaged, ask questions to understand. Once you do understand communicate and follow-through, so your supervisor has the comfort to back away, allowing you to operate independently.

Construction has many circumstances that require exactness, or it can cause time delays from push-back, open the door for risk and ultimately cause injury to people or profit. To further explain, you can read Micromanagement or Lack of Communication.

Build Trust for Freedom

If you and your significant other always call each other when you are away from one another, or when you are headed home and you stop doing so without explanation it could cause concern. The same happens in the workplace.  Ninety-nine percent of the time when people feel they are micromanaged or feel they must micromanage it is because they don’t trust the other party to follow through accordingly. This can happen in a relationship that is both new and one that is seasoned. What changes? Something. And when something changes, everything can change if not realigned.

To create independence in the workplace it requires modifications in your behavior and approach to allow others to align their expectations with yours. If you feel micromanaged in the workplace or feel like you must micromanage perhaps, you need to do what Joy and George did which was to step away and take time to look at what they might be able to adjust with their attempts at training Elsa to be independent. Not to spoil the ending, but it worked for Elsa and she finally gets accepted into the pride, and it can work for you and your employee with time and patience as they strive for independence. The ultimate success for a trainer is when the training is over and the trainee stands on their own.

Do you feel micromanaged or the necessity to micromanage others? Maybe a step back to realign your approach is needed? Just like Elsa gained her independence with proper training and time, your correct onboarding of a new hire following these principles will spell success for your employee, and your company.

Happy Independence Day,

Suzanne Breistol


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