Autonomy equals trust
Management isn’t about walking around and seeing if people are in their offices…It’s about creating conditions for people to do their best work.
I’ve just read management “expert” Dan Pink’s book Drive. The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I also heard him speak at the EduTech Conference in June and found his ideas and insights inspiring.
Pink has investigated research around motivation and rewards and come up with some conclusions which apply equally well to schools as they do to businesses.
Schools often operate on the system Pink calls Motivation 2.0, the traditional “sticks and carrots” approach where good results and behaviour are rewarded and bad results and behaviour are punished. (Motivation 1.0 was the system our earliest ancestors operated under – otherwise known as survival.)
Pink asserts that Motivation 2.0 doesn’t usually work and that what works better is Motivation 3.0 which is framed around the principles of autonomy, mastery and purpose.
He believes that we do our best work when:
- we have autonomy to work the way that suits us best,
- a sense that we are striving to master the skills involved in our work and
- we understand and believe in the purpose for what we are doing.
Have a look at this RSA Animate about Drive.
It seems to me that autonomy is much the same thing as trust.
If your boss, your principal, your teacher are giving you the freedom to choose your task, your time, your team and your technique, then they are placing trust in you.
Sometimes the structures of school make it hard to implement systems based on trust and autonomy.
For example, how can we give students autonomy over their tasks when assessment has to have some sort of standardisation? How can we give them autonomy over their time when the school day operates on a timetable?
What about systems that let teachers do their best work?
Do inspections and carrot rewards for high student achievement lead to teachers feeling motivated and trusted?