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Freedom at work and how to get it

Hi! Hope you had a good weekend. This week’s newsletter is about creating more freedom at work. Becau

Work in Progress

September 21 · Issue #50 · View online
The newsletter about work

Hope you had a good weekend. This week’s newsletter is about creating more freedom at work. Because in a time when we have much less freedom to physically move around or travel, having more room to do the work we want to do can make it easier to deal with all the restrictions of the pandemic. (And it helps you focus on the work that matters most.)

It’s not easy to ensure your work has an impact. For starters, you need to know what’s actually important. What’s the one thing that can help your organization make real progress? And then comes the really hard part: convincing your manager. Not exactly a walk in the park.
When I talk with people about why we have trouble working on what’s important, I get the same answers: I don’t have enough time, my boss has other priorities for me, or I don’t have that kind of freedom at my job.
A lack of freedom in particular is something a lot of people run up against. If the boss would just have more faith in folks, give you more freedom, and stop micromanaging, it would lead to better results, greater accomplishments, and more of an impact.
As understandable as this way of thinking is, we’ve got it backwards.
I mean, it’s certainly true that managers should do their best to create an environment where you have the room to experiment and figure out what works. But the long and the short of it is this: You have to earn trust and wiggle room at work. 
The good news is that means the ball’s in your court. And the situation looks more like this:
Here are some concrete things you can try this week
  • Choose small and concrete over vast and sweeping. Don’t be surprised if that proposal of yours to do everything differently gets cast aside. After all, there’s a lot to lose and the benefits are iffy at best. Focus instead on one specific thing that will help everyone this week – an indisputable improvement that will take you an hour, tops. 
  • Don’t ask for permission. Don’t write out a lengthy plan, but get straight to work. Invest a little of your own time and be more efficient with your day (shorten your coffee breaks, shave a little time off lunch) in order to get this pet project done. Share it as an experiment. Folks can always go back to how things were before. 
  • Do what you say you’ll do. Whatever you do, make clear promises and follow through. It’s the best recipe for having a manager who grants you the space to do your thing. And that creates more room for other pursuits. 
You’ll have to start small. But if you manage to do good work, perform, and have a clear impact, that will lead to greater freedom, more trust, and less management.
At least, that’s how it should work. We all know that some people get rewarded for only minimal accomplishments, while others do great things and get passed over. Good work alone isn’t enough to address systemic blinders like racism and sexism.
But good work remains the basis.
And that’s the part you can influence directly. Today.
Have a good week!

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