Chapter 42. How to Conduct an Autonomy-Support Meeting

Matthew Philip

The fifth principle of the Agile Manifesto encourages us to “Build projects around motivated individuals, give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.” As managers, one of the ways we can fulfill that principle is by providing autonomy-support meetings for the people we support.

An autonomy-support meeting is a one-on-one meeting in which the manager, taking a servant-leader stance, helps an employee by clearing a path and clarifying what problems need to be solved but not how to solve them.

Rather than telling the employee what to do, the manager asks what they can do to support the employee’s goals in alignment with the team’s and organization’s goals. Here are some ways in which a manager can do this:

  • Seeing issues from the employee’s point of view

  • Giving meaningful feedback

  • Receiving feedback from the employee

  • Providing choice over what to do and how to do it

  • Encouraging the employees to take on new projects or roles

  • Making clear the team and organizational goals

The dynamic should be one in which the traditional organizational structure is flipped upside-down. That is, rather than the traditional dynamic of the employee “working for” the manager, in the autonomy-support meeting, the servant-leader has the mindset of “working for” the employee. In this way, the manager typically doesn’t give the employee to-do items but rather takes their own to-do ...

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