Managers: Stop trying to control everything and do this instead

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Giving up command and control in favor of trust and autonomy can be a scary thing, especially if you're a manager steeped in traditional methods. But have you ever actually considered asking your team members what they think? Are you truly open to their ideas? Have you given any of them a real shot? If not, it's time to start.

Unfortunately, many managers believe their direct reports are incapable of strategic thinking, or that the manager's job will be in jeopardy if word of great ideas from underlings gets out. But that's simply not the case. What if I told you that teachers have done this with their students, and have seen remarkable success?

The proof is in a recent podcast, in which David Langford talks about how he was under pressure as a high school teacher to raise test scores in his classroom at Mt. Edgecumbe high school in Sitka, Alaska. The school had already tried all the usual things like throwing money at the problem, using carrot and stick incentives with the teachers and students, rating and ranking them, and so on.

But it wasn't until David stopped and asked the students for ideas, that things really started to change for the better. The students told him what was holding them back, including arbitrary deadlines for turning in work, and the grading system that rewarded competition and punished cooperation. David had recently been named "Teacher of the Year" in Alaska, so you can imagine how hard it must have been for him to listen to his students telling him that he wasn't exactly doing a great job.

David took his students feedback to heart and started making changes in his classroom. And that was when he saw real improvement. He worked with his students to reduce extrinsic motivators and teach in a way that brought out the students' intrinsic motivation to learn. Since then, David has been working with teachers all over the world to help them improve, too. The Leander school district, in a suburb of Austin Texas, is one example, and you can hear their story in this podcast.

Here's the bottom line: If David's high school students can do it, so can your team.

Now, what about you? Do you have a story of giving up command and control? If so, please share it with us in the comments section below.

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Keith Sparkjoy

Keith Sparkjoy was a Culture Coach at Pluralsight. As a cofounder, Keith was the Chief Technology Officer for many years, building and hosting the website and all things IT. These days there's a whole team of folks taking care of the tech, and Keith is focusing more on company culture, which is one of the most important aspects of a fast-growing business.