Autonomy Begets Success

At InviteManager, culture is king. I know, I know…everybody says that. I’ve heard it a thousand times but rarely see it genuinely be the case.

Autonomy is a huge part of our culture. Freedom and self-governance to thrive are core to our success, and we bear the cost, and there are costs, to find that success. Q2 starts in just a few days. Bigger team, bigger goals, and bigger aspirations. For the right team, those big goals are exciting. For the wrong people, it is terrifying. The reason: Autonomy.

Autonomy is interesting. When we interview prospective teammates, everybody says they want autonomy. And why not? It sounds nice. I want to be my own boss and have nobody tell me what to do. I’ll show up at work, they’ll give me a task, I’ll do it, I’ll go home, and I won’t be judged on its merit (and, if I am, I can blame the company or system or other people or the like). That, however, is not autonomy. It’s just a lack of accountability.

Autonomy is independence or freedom. It is self-governing. We believe that most people say they want autonomy until they get it, then they realize autonomy comes with more responsibility than the alternatives. There are no excuses and nobody else to blame if things don’t get done. Results matter and there are no moral victories.

Those who thrive in an autonomous environment do so with self-governed discipline and drive. They want more and go get more. They thrive in a team environment as they have skin in the game ambition driven by self-governance.

When my co-founders and I were at StubHub learning from some of the best, we were sold on the idea of autonomy. Hire reps into 8 autonomous markets and have them run their market. It was very similar to TicketManager as we all grew very close, saw high turnover in the early months, which we embraced as the cost of autonomy, and saw terrific success. It took a very particular kind of person to succeed in that environment and we found them. When Joe, my co-founder and consigliere, and I left StubHub in 2007, we had twelve reports. Eight of those twelve have started, joined early, or sold parts of businesses worth tens of millions, with significant profit to them, since then. People who thrive in autonomous cultures are well-prepared to thrive everywhere, and it’s what we aspire to.

There has been a lot of talk about a “new craze” of “servant leadership” (not a new idea). Servant leadership doesn’t work, however, unless there is pure and real autonomy. Most staffers aren’t ready for autonomy. And most leaders aren’t mature enough to offer it. My humble advice: find the ones that are, ask them how you can serve them, and get out of the way.