4 tips for successful self-management

2. December 2021 - By Nanna Gry Tolborg, Senior Consultant at Mannaz Share

Self-management has become the solution in answering the call for the empowerment, being demanded by employees and sought after by companies. However, self-management is not without its challenges. It requires a defined framework established through communication and a professional dialogue structure. Discover how to integrate self-management and participatory decision-making in practice and get 4 tips for professional conversations in this article.

During the past year of Covid-19, we’ve learnt the potential possibilities of working from home, including the significant freedom it provides to organise our working day. However, unlike a defined office-based workday, working from home is likely to increase the merging of leisure time and work time, making it more challenging to navigate a 37-hour work week. On top of that, from the home office, you may find that working with colleagues doesn’t flow as smoothly as when you’re in the office. A sense of ‘it’s you against the world’ can arise as working from home challenges collaboration.

As we all know, freedom is a double-edged sword: “With great freedom comes great responsibility.”

Participatory decision-making is deeply rooted in the Danish identity. We want influence over both our private and working lives, and we relish the opportunity to decide for ourselves. Consequently, participatory decision-making has a significant and direct impact on employees’ job satisfaction. How can organisations realise and integrate the co-operative principle in practice without putting undue pressure on employees?

 

Self-management also brings with it the responsibility to perform tasks well. It is precisely this aspect of self-management that requires extra hours, flexibility, learning, development, among many other factors.

 

Self-management as a response to participatory decision-making

In many companies, self-management has become the answer in the quest for participatory decision-making, partly due to the trade unions’ fight for employee democracy. Self-management is meant to give employees a significant say in how their tasks are performed; they are in control and manage their work within an agreed framework. It was launched as a management technique to minimise the gap between employee and organisational objectives.

So, self-management relies on some assumptions. Firstly, that employees have the capacity and willingness to make decisions about their work – about its method, planning and implementation that will ultimately contribute to the realisation of the company’s goals and values. Secondly, it’s based on the expectation that self-management will lead to a more meaningful work experience.

It’s therefore, natural to believe that self-management provides perfect conditions for participatory decision-making. But self-management also brings with it the responsibility to perform tasks well. It is precisely this aspect of self-management that requires extra hours, flexibility, learning, development, among many other factors.

 

Self-management in practice

So-called performance reviews are among the tools that managers have in their toolbox when it comes to guiding self-management. Here, employee performance and skills development are addressed during a semi-annual or annual meeting between the manager and employee. These meetings are held to achieve synergy between the individual’s wishes and dreams and the organisation’s objectives and needs.

In the gap between interviews, the employee’s responsibility is to self-manage, following the agreed agreements and framework. This is where the first warning light should flash on. When an employee has been involved in determining their objectives for achieving the organisation’s goals, it becomes difficult to distinguish between their needs and those of the organisation.

 

With this approach, the management baton is handed to the employee in many ways, however, the manager can also unintentionally delegate insecurity.

 

Tons of freedom?

Self-management means having a say in planning your own working time so that work, leisure and family life are all in harmony. It’s possible to sit down at the computer for a few hours in the evening after the children have gone to bed or to go for a run in the middle of the day when the weather is nice.

With this approach, the management baton is handed to the employee in many ways, however, the manager can also unintentionally delegate insecurity. The employee may experience inappropriate pressure or managerial accountability. After all, who is responsible if the task turns out to be more complicated than anticipated or if the employee can’t keep up? Who is responsible if the employee experiences stress and productivity lapses when the big picture is lost or the work isn’t structured?

If the answer to empowerment is self-management, it’s vital to establish the framework. Who has management responsibility for what? There should be a plan for how employees and organisations deal with situations, before they arise.

 

With the communicative approach to participatory decision-making comes the need for discourse approaches that support more conversations in everyday life. This also creates the need for competencies to engage in professional dialogue.

 

Creating a good framework starts with communication

Ultimately, the responsibility for establishing a sound framework always lies with the manager. Self-management thus requires a clear framework and a balanced scope, taking into account the objectives and interests of both the employee and the company. That said, the relationship between manager and employee must be based on constructive dialogue, and that’s something that’s often overlooked. The framework for self-management must also, therefore, be developed through dialogue.

At its core, participatory decision-making can be seen as a matter of recognition: people feel seen, heard and understood. From this perspective, participatory decision-making emerges by individuals expressing how they understand the world and make sense of the task at hand. Constructive dialogue is a prerequisite for participatory decision-making because it’s through dialogue that we create the task together. With the communicative approach to participatory decision-making comes the need for discourse approaches that support more conversations in everyday life. This also creates the need for competencies to engage in professional dialogue.

Below are 4 great tips for professional dialogue that can help lay the foundations for effective self-management.

 

4 great tips for professional dialogue

 

  1. Be inquisitive (ask, ask and ask)

Many exchanges go off track because one party is presumptuous about the other’s motives and intentions – and jumps to the wrong conclusions too quickly. It’s imperative to clarify the intentions behind what people say and do. So enter into conversations with a high degree of curiosity. Ask 2 to 3 more questions than you intuitively think are necessary.

  1. Use questioning approaches

Questions open up dialogue, knowledge and new paradigms. Questions demonstrate to interviewees that you’re genuinely interested in their views and assessment of the task. Conclusions are often usually reached long before conflict occurs when you use a questioning approach in dialogue. The questioning approach also leaves room for everyone to put forward their proposals and reservations.

  1. Remember, no one is objective

We should all recognise that we have a bias when it comes to, well, everything. There is no universal truth, rather there are multiple interpretations of the world, and constructive dialogue must reflect this. Several scholars refer to ‘exposing one’s subjectivity’, as it cannot be avoided or escaped. If everyone’s subjectivity can be managed in dialogue; the probability of a good outcome is raised.

  1. Don’t fall in love with your views

Participatory decision-making also means making room for other people’s views and opinions. If you enter into dialogue with a pre-determined purpose and only pretend that the conversation leads to participatory decision-making, you’ll amplify the damage. If you’ve decided in advance, the people involved in the dialogue will lose confidence in future, mutually binding cooperation. If you want to see someone else do a particular job, it’s wiser to say so directly and be prepared to learn or find other solutions through dialogue.

 

The link between the individual aspiration and the organisational mission should be created through an inquisitive, constructive approach to participatory decision-making – an approach in which tasks are addressed in dialogue and with room to manoeuvre.

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About Nanna Gry Tolborg

Nanna is a Senior Consultant at Mannaz. She teaches leadership, process management and virtual facilitation in the public and private sectors. Nanna focuses on engaging, involving and being a role model, so participants put their learning into practise. A former teacher, she has an MSc in Educational Science and Masters modules in Evaluation and Quality Development and Educational Leadership.

Contact Nanna at nto@mannaz.com or +45 6178 2404.