The upcoming Independence Day has me thinking about how independent we are as Americans (which I am proud to be). And so, it makes sense that an engaged workplace is where we want to work. That’s where we are free to determine our “how” (the process for getting our work done) when given the “what” (e.g., our goals).

And yet, as leaders, even though we have this same independent spirit, we often tell others what their “how” should be. For some of my clients, it is driven by fear of the unknown and a desire to control the results. For others, it is an innate desire to help and share wisdom. The latter has been my motive when I’ve intervened. But lately, I have come to realize that no matter what the impetus, the impact is the same. The person doing the work can feel untrusted, that “we know better,” and frustrated by his or her independence shrinking. All of these factors decrease engagement.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what you want them to achieve, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
                                                                                                             – General George S. Patton, Jr

And so on this upcoming 4th of July, I challenge us all, myself included, to relish our independence and fervently protect that of those we live and work with. We should cast the vision, and share the objectives and boundaries when it’s our role to do so. Let us give others the freedom to choose how they get to their goals. While we certainly should step in if there are safety concerns or serious, irreversible consequences, to do so otherwise is revoking their freedom. It is taking back the gift of development —the gift that says, “I trust you.”

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    Loriana Sekarski is founder and president of BONSAI, a consulting company that transforms leaders (and businesses) into the best version of themselves. As a leadership coach, Loriana teaches leaders how to hone soft skills, spur workplace engagement, and achieve untapped levels of potential. Outside of BONSAI, Loriana serves as an adjunct professor at Washington University’s graduate student program. Additionally, she's fine-tuning her passion project, TakeFlight, a division of BONSAI that launches organizations, churches, and marriages to boldly live out their purpose by leveraging their strengths to achieve their God-given destiny. TakeFlight has just developed Revealing Hidden Shackles, an innovative curriculum that examines domestic violence within the Christian community.