Have you made yourself redundant yet?
There are multiple reasons why building autonomous teams is challenging for leaders, but there is one aspect of the challenge that we’re ignoring.
Regardless of the challenges of building the required trust, frameworks, and processes that foster autonomy, creating autonomous teams is a form of making yourself gradually “redundant”. I suspect that this feeling of “redundancy” is at the core of why a lot of leaders find it so difficult to “go autonomous”.
As humans, we are programmed to derive our sense of value from being needed. Most managers were “imprinted” in a hierarchical world. The notion of autonomous teams “flattens” the organization and challenges their reason for existence as managers. If autonomous teams manage themselves, what am I needed for as a manager?
As the workforce and workplaces rapidly evolve, and there is growing need to move faster than ever, the need for autonomous teams will grow and with it the need for leaders who see it as their jobs to “make themselves redundant”.
To become leaders who unleash the power of autonomy in their teams managers need to redefine their “value proposition”. They need to make their old self redundant.
Defending our position of value
There is a reason finding a job is called “making a living”. As humans, we’re born helpless and depend on our group for survival in our first few years. As we grow the group expects us to discover and develop a unique skill/talent that would help our group survive.
Humans were programed for as long as we existed, and until less than 100 years ago, to find a single “position of value” in the group and become the best we can in our skill.
So it’s no surprise that we derive the core of our sense of value from our job and the responsibility that comes with it. We hold to it for dear life.
The security of hierarchy
It used to be, and still is in most places, that being a manager is a symbol of knowledge, experience and status. Once you find your fit in a group and start contributing, you “climbed up the ladder” and when you reached the top you have secured your status and position in the group.
Managing in a flat world
But the world is changing. The “shelf life” of knowledge is dramatically shrinking. Whole industries collapse and invent themselves in a few years. And the power of the individual contributor, powered with endless available knowledge and tools is multiplying daily.
A single individual contributor today can do, from home by themselves, what tens of people couldn’t achieve together only 10–15 years ago.
In this type of reality, the concept of a classic manager dissolves and a new kind of manager/leader emerges.
The coaching manager.
The coaching manager
Coaching managers derive their value from their ability to maximize the impact of individual contributors by creating the conditions that DRIVE them and enable them to find: Ownership, mastery and purpose.
The coaching managers don’t rely on their knowledge for status. Instead, their superpower is their ability to identify and maximize the individual potential and then connect those individuals into teams that are driven by a shared purpose and goals. Teams that are greater than the sum of their parts.
Like any other coach, their ultimate success is when their “clients” achieve a level of autonomy that makes them REDUNDANT.
Coaching managers don’t manage, they lead. They’re focused on identifying and fostering POTENTIAL and removing internal and external INTERFERENCES.
Making yourself redundant doesn’t really make you redundant
So what do coaching managers do when their autonomous teams manage themselves?
- The ensure their teams are inspired by and are focused on the company vision and goals.
- They help their teams identify and cultivate their unique contribution and potential impact as a group.
- They help the team remove external and internal interferences.
- They ensure that every person in their teams brings their personal unique contribution into action and is on a path of growth.
- They ensure their team leads are on a path to become coaching managers themselves.
They make themselves redundant.
How dependent your teams are on you to reach their goals?