25 JANUARY, 2023


Want to increase productivity and agility, build your team’s confidence and even save on overheads in the workplace? Creating a self-managed team is one of the many ways you can achieve these goals. But how do you know if your team is ready to move into self-management?

Here, we’ve put together eight signs that can indicate your team is ready to be a self-managed team, as well as strategies to transition to a self-management approach.

What do self-managed teams look like?

When it comes to business, a self-managed team is a self-organised and semi-autonomous group of employees. They can also be called a self-directed team. This type of team shares the responsibility of planning and carrying out their work without the constant presence of a supervisor or external leader.

Self-management can be considered as almost the exact opposite of micromanagement, because the self-managed team has the autonomy and confidence to accomplish tasks under their own steam.

What does self-management look like on a daily basis?

A self-managed team is focused and motivated. Between the team members, they plan and schedule workflows, delegate duties, handle issues and carry out technical tasks to meet an objective. They may also handle processes such as hiring and training new workers, and managing annual leave and absences. These tasks are often rotated among the team members. A self-managed team is more likely to be successful when the group is small and includes a variety of job skills.

Do managers have a role in a self-managed team?

Generally speaking a manager sets the overall direction of a project or task and provides the tools and training. Then the members of the team determine, plan, and manage their daily activities and duties under reduced or no supervision. The manager might only make contact with the team when they have meetings for project updates, issues and resource requests, allowing them to focus on growing the business and boosting profits.

Benefits of a self-management approach

Why are employee self-management and empowerment necessary? Because it can bring a vast range of advantages for the modern organisation, from employee engagement to greater resilience in the face of change. Here are some of the clearest benefits of successful self-managed teams.

  • Self-management improves employee motivation and engagement
    Employees are more likely to feel engaged at work when they understand their objective and feel a sense of purpose in the wider business.
  • Employees can develop their leadership skills
    Each employee has ample opportunities to build, hone and practise their leadership skills. This helps to build a solid leadership funnel along with career development.
  • Employees are empowered to expand their knowledge
    With a self-managed approach there’s every incentive for an employee to both broaden and deepen their skillset, as this can benefit the team and organisation as a whole.
  • Employees have the flexibility to work across different business functions
    This not only improves teamwork and unity, but the team also becomes more adaptive in the face of change, disruption and crises.
  • Decision-making is improved and relevant to employee experiences
    Decisions about aspects like recruitment, and even annual leave, can be shaped around what’s actually needed and when, to improve efficiency and productivity.
  • Managers can be freed up for the broader scope 
    Rather than worrying about employees’ micro-tasks, managers can focus on elements like broader strategy, workplace culture and learning and development.

How to tell if your team is ready for a self-management approach

There are a number of signs that your team could be naturally gravitating towards a self-directed approach. Look out for these self-managed teams characteristics.

  • Employees are self-driven
    Each team member can motivate themselves to start, focus on, and complete tasks quickly and accurately even if the tasks are difficult, boring, or repetitive. Team members may also ask to complete special projects or tasks and bring their own ideas to the table, or even request work that’ll help them make improvements in their job.
  • Employees have mutual trust
    The team members trust each other and are trusted to accomplish their own tasks, allowing for transparency, honesty, and humility. They’re able to share stories and opinions, as well as have the difficult conversations that can help them solve problems and help each other grow and be better. Each member can also admit failure, own up to mistakes, and ask for guidance.
  • Employees are confident with decision making
    Each individual in the team has the confidence to make decisions on their own, even if it’s a tough one. They prioritise their work based on the company’s priorities and choose to do things that bring the most value. They may use tools like project management software to help them look at the big picture, and then focus on completing ‘must do’ items in order to achieve their goals.
  • Employees have a high level of self-awareness
    Each team member is highly self-aware. In other words, they can evaluate how their values, passions, and aspirations fit with their work environment and reactions (thoughts, feelings, behaviours, strengths, weaknesses), and how to align these in a more effective way. They can also understand how other people view them, helping them to build stronger relationships with their colleagues. As a result, they’re happier and more productive.
  • Employees have strong communication skills
    All team members are good at interpersonal communication and use their collaborative skills on a daily basis. They can ask for peer and leadership input, the resources and tools they need to get the job done, and are not afraid to request feedback on their work.
  • Employees can independently set and execute goals
    Every person has the ability to set and execute goals. They can see the potential outcome of a project or task and have the passion and drive to see it through. In other words, they can identify what’s important and are able to deliver the required product or service with minimal oversight.
  • Employees can manage their own time well
    The team has strong time management skills. They plan what they’re going to do each day and focus on the ‘most important’ tasks first before doing the ‘least important’ tasks. They avoid checking their emails constantly or making personal phone calls and texts during their most productive time of the day in order to get their work done.
  • Employees are agile learners
    Each individual likes to learn new things and will seek to improve their own knowledge where it’s lacking. For example, if the team does marketing wraps on vehicles or installs new heat-pump systems, they’ll seek out experts on social media or watch online training videos to learn and master the service or task at hand.

How to transition to self-managed teams

If your team shows that they’re ready for a self-management approach, it’s time to start building the support to make it happen. Here are key steps to transition to self-managing teams within your workplace

Gauge interest in a self-management approach

The very nature of self-management means that it’s vital to have buy-in from the team members themselves. Are all members in full understanding of what self-management entails, and are they ready and enthusiastic about self-direction? You may find that teams with the qualities for self-management will jump at the opportunity to drive positive change.

Set clear business goals for self-managed teams

For self-management to work effectively, everyone in the organisation needs to be on the same page when it comes to the process and ideal outcomes. Set transparent goals for the team that align with the organisation’s wider objectives, and establish how you’ll measure success. Ensure leaders understand the value in stepping away from the minor details, and encourage them to work on what matters in their own role.

Train employees for a self-management approach

Before setting out, enquire about and address any skills gaps that have the potential to hold the team back. This could include specific technical training needed to complete the project or improve understanding. It might also include training relevant to self-managed teamwork, such as collaboration, critical thinking or project management.

Let teams define their specific objectives

Within the wider goal, it will be up to the team to develop their own milestones and secondary objectives based on their own expertise and experience. Teams should be encouraged to set out their own process, and collaborate to define their roles and responsibilities.

Share decision-making power

Self-managed teams must feel empowered to ask for what they’ll need to complete a project or to reach a wider objective, because they’ll come to understand it better than anyone. Give employees a say in relevant organisational decisions such as hiring and strategy, or let them drive the process where possible. Doing so can actively improve efficiency and productivity.

Move towards a fair workplace

This is an ideal time to remove any of the common barriers or inequities that can hold back collaboration. Ensure compensation is balanced and fair, provide the same opportunities to all team members, and let every team member know their contribution matters equally.

Practice self-management with a team

Self-management can be a big change, particularly when transitioning from a traditional management model. There could be benefit in trialling the approach with a volunteer team first. Gentle guidance from an external leader can help the team build confidence and independence until they feel ready to drive the process fully.

Monitor and improve self-managed teams

While the entire point of a self-managed team is that they don’t need constant monitoring, there is still benefit in checking in from time to time. Ask for feedback, work together to identify improvement opportunities, assess performance against the pre-agreed metrics and importantly, celebrate the team’s achievements.

Looking to improve your team’s self-management skills?

A high-performing, self-managed work team can help your business grow and succeed in a vast number of ways. Nurturing the skills and credentials of each individual and the wider team can be essential for success. DeakinCo. provides workplace training solutions that can help you build empowered self-managed teams. Contact us today to find out more about how we could help your organisation.