Corporate liberation, the term coined by authors Brian Carney and Isaac Getz in their book Freedom, Inc., is the idea that control should be shifted from managers to workers so that they are empowered to take initiative in their work for the betterment of the company. Employees of liberated companies are not limited to the constraints of decision-makers or procedures. They are entrusted to choose and implement the processes that they believe are in the best interest of their organization. Successfully liberated companies experience higher efficiency as their employees are fully committed to their strategic vision and enjoy the autonomy to innovate.

Corporate Liberation: Freeing Your Team

Abandoning the Traditional Command-and-Control Company

Traditional command-and-control companies have an influential and dominate management style rooted in the military. The goal of command-and-control leadership is to establish and maintain control and power over employees and organizational processes. Almost everything goes through a chain of command, and this determines the relationship between employees and the organization. This relationship leads to its ineffectiveness. Command-and-control limits employee engagement and commitment, hinders communication, and impedes course correction. In the current corporate environment, the need for innovation has drastically increased and depending on one person or a few to take sole responsibility for decision-making and directing the efforts needed to unlock growth opportunities has become increasingly inadequate.

To counteract the rigidness of command-and-control management, corporations have begun adopting people-centered leadership styles to inspire innovation and remain competitive. Corporate liberation meets employee needs for autonomy, personal growth, and to be treated with respect. Command-and-control companies systematically ignore and deny these needs. However, when these needs are met, it motivates and inspires employees to work for the good of the company.

Managing in a Liberated Company

Leaders within a liberated company are not nonexistent or inconsequential. They serve the very important role of providing a positive influence, advice, and empowerment to employees.  They forgo issuing commands to invest in creating an environment and behaviors in which employees can collaborate productively.

Managers of freedom-based teams are not the default decision-makers. The position is instead shifted to employees. If they feel they are not sufficiently informed to decide, the decision is then escalated to the manager.  This process hastens delegating and cuts out time spent by managers to acquaint themselves with a situation before they are able to make a decision or resolution. Managers also typically issue orders in the form of missions which further distributes responsibility to employees to use varying means to bring a situation nearer to the intended status of their manager. To avoid overwhelming employees with too many decisions to make, managers make missions less general and more specific while leaving flexibility in decision-making. When communicating with their freedom-based teams, managers avoid the “need to know” mantra and instead focus on “right to know”. They convey all information that is useful to their employees, keeping in mind the amount as to prevent information overload.

Building a Freedom-based Team

Hallmarks of a freedom-based team are employees taking appropriate risks, readily admitting their mistakes, and openly communicating with their managers and teammates. Devoting intentional effort to creating a liberated work environment produces these characteristics within organizational teams.  Here are a few ways to get started building a freedom-based team.

Be receptive to others: Cultivate a freedom-based team by actively seeking employee input and truly listening to their ideas; incorporate their feedback into team decisions and action plans. This provides team members with the opportunity to be invested and display a sense of ownership. Avoid looking for holes in their ideas and find ways to make all or parts of them work. Being available to connect with team members enhances receptivity.

Do not micromanage: Micromanagement creates resignation and discouragement among team members. It disempowers employees to the point where they will become disengaged from their work, eventually only doing the minimum amount of work acceptable and nothing more.

Be open: Lead with a philosophy of openness to instill a sense of freedom within the team atmosphere. Demonstrate openness by sharing information needed by employees to act responsibly in their roles. Also, be forthright and genuine when sharing information or interacting with team members; avoid spinning the truth to manipulate team members. Team members will know and respect that there are no hidden agendas.

Wrapping It All Up

Corporate liberation gives greater autonomy and responsibility to employees. In a liberated company, employees are more committed to the company’s goals and enjoy the freedom to innovate. Liberated companies avoid the pitfalls of command-and-control leadership that impede innovation and decision-making. Successful managers of freedom-based teams are a positive influence on their teams. They encourage and value their team members’ input. Being receptive, avoiding micromanaging, and openness are a few ways to help foster a freedom-based team.