Freedom Within Limits

The query came from a workshop participant – “shouldn’t we just stop trying to manage and leave people to do their jobs?”

It was a good question – which drew from me what seemed to be a ‘sitting on the fence’ response.

Yes – but – No.

Yes – because that’s why we build teams. We can’t do it all and need to draw on and allow other people’s skills and strengths in order to get the work done.

No – because we operate within a wider organisational context which is characterised by prescribed boundaries.

In other words, we need to follow the ‘freedom within limits’ philosophy.

Freedom within limits understands that maturity rests in the notion of interdependency rather than independency. It appreciates that all of our actions have consequences and possible ramifications for others and the wider collective system – so as individuals we need to be mindful of the constraints we operate within.

It recognises the importance of the underlying ground rules and expectations a group will set to define and maintain these restrictions.

A feature of high performing individuals and teams is that they are self-regulating

A feature of high performing individuals and teams is that they are self-regulating. This means that as a collective, effective teams and organisations are able to work with shared norms and can pivot and adapt to new situations as required, as well as have the mechanisms to enforce consequences when necessary. They reach the state of freedom within limits as a by-product of effective management and leadership.

3 Tips to Ensure Freedom Within Limits

1. Set & Communicate

People need to know what the limits are. Establish defined parameters via values, expectations and KPI’s. Create the pathway, lay down the tracks and let people loose.

2. Enforce

When people step outside of the prescribed limits, let them know and enforce consequences as necessary. This refers to all the usual disciplinary measures we use in a team and organisational setting, ranging from coaching conversations to more serious actions such as termination of employment.

3. Allow

Freedom means allowing people and teams their learnings and mistakes. Individuals and teams get to self-regulation when they have the opportunity to experience contrast – good/bad, conflict/harmony and so on. The road to interdependency is paved with stumbling blocks but - as we all know - the transformation is in the journey.

And, as we also know, it's worth it.