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What is Self-Management?

Self-management is the focus on getting a team to function without having leadership input. The idea is to have a team that can work out it’s problems/issues without external input. It’s to get people developed to work independently and without having individuals needing to have their hands held to get job duties done. Self-managing teams can work rather well in organization that are in mission critical fields. Self-management is the idea that employees are able to know what they need to do and can do that on their own.


There are a lot of benefits to self-managing teams:

  • Reduces management and leadership involvement
    1. This allows a leader to focus on other, more important tasks.
    2. Leaders don't necessarily have to be involved in the more mundane elements of managing a team.
    3. Self-managing teams can also enhance an organization by getting other departments to become more independent. The more independent that these departments are, the more likely they can function and simplify processes to work more effectively.
  • Makes it easier to adjust to changes in the market.
    1. When teams are independent, they can figure out what is going on in the market and help the organization to adjust better.
    2. They are much more likely to find new ways to service these changes.
    3. Self-managing teams are also able to present new ideas as a result of seeing these changes firsthand.
  • Self-managing teams can simplify and enhance processes.
    1. When teams are independent, they can find out which processes can be simplified and then simplify them.
    2. Self-management teams can take those proceses that are ineffective and replace them with better ones.
    3. Self-managing teams are continually developing.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of other major benefits to having these teams being independent. These are just some of the benefits that you will see as a leader with developing teams that are functionally independent.

Why Leaders Fail to Cultivate Part One: Failure to Relinquish Control

One of the biggest reasons why leaders fail to cultivate these teams is that they fear giving up control. It’s an easy thing to understand when it comes to leadership. The individual(s) that have gotten into these positions may have worked hard for years to get there and don’t want to have “competition.” It is an easy thing to get into. Leaders that are here need to learn how to appropriately navigate the transition of having self-managing teams.

Failing to give up control can stifle a lot of the things that a team might need or want to function normally. When a leader stifles a team, there creates unneeded and unnecessary tension. This tension leads to situations that aggravates the stress that everyone feels. Failure to relinquish control when needed just makes it that much harder to get things done.

Why Leaders Fail to Cultivate Part Two: Insecurity

Much like the failure to relinquish control, leaders can fail to turn over control to their team as a result of insecurity. Some of these leaders can feel like they lose the potential of regaining control as a result of their teams becoming more self-managed. Others might feel like they feel like they are unable to let go of control. This can play onto the aforementioned reason, but insecure leaders are just afraid that there are going to be things that happen that they cannot repair the “damage” that a team is likely to cause if they are allowed to become self-managing.

Overcoming Barriers

There are a few ways to overcome barriers when learning to transition your team to a more independent role. Take each with a grain of salt and then look at these barriers as opportunities to learn/grow.

First, learn to let go. It will help you. Let go of control and the need to control every facet of what the team is doing. As a leader, you have to learn how to manage and do damage control. This will make it much easier for you to allow them to do what they need to do as a group of individuals.

Second, facilitate the transition towards self-management. Encourage people to take charge. Encourage the employees to work more independently and be time-managers of their own. Facilitate the team’s transition to communicate more with each other and other departments to be able to carry out their own duties.

Third, build in rules and trips that your team knows about. These should be for serious reasons and reasons that necessitate you getting involved with the process. As long as people can be civil, get stuff done, and be able to move forward, then you have no need to be overtly involved. Let them get their stuff done and move forward with it.