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Last updated on 1/17/23

Determine your autonomy and that of others

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Agree on your role and that of others

In order to rely on the skills of your colleagues (whether they are your peers, associates, employees or temporary stakeholders), you will need to assess each of them to know how and what to share (even to delegate).

To do this, use the situational management approach, which will give you the tools to define who does what. You can do the assessment for yourself or for your colleague. You could even do it together, which can help you to jointly draft working methods.

To do this, you need to consider two themes:


In what matters do you think you or your colleague are competent, with regard to technique, career, organisation, interpersonal skills and the skills seen in the previous chapter.

Be objective in your assessment. Be clear about the skills to assess, according to the project or the activity to be conducted.

For example:

Perhaps you have to co-design with a third party on a project to create an IT programme. If you and your colleague have the same technical skills, but not the same interpersonal skills, then define your roles. If you don’t have the choice and, in spite of your different skills, you need to act together, then you need to put an action plan in place (e.g. to decide to train yourselves), which should secure the success of your assignment.


This focuses on how the action or assignment motivates you and motivates your colleague. You sometimes have to do something that doesn't suit you. (Yes, even if you have learnt to say no, sometimes it’s the business that guides your decisions.)

The better you know yourself, the easier this assessment will be. The desire to do things is based on the pleasure in doing them, the ability to find the time, and giving the assignment a higher priority than another.

There too, you and your colleague can have differing perceptions. Agree with yourself first, and then with the other person. That will help you define each person’s roles if you collaborate.

Use the diagram below to define your situation with respect to competence and motivation, as well as the situation of each colleague. The next step is to formulate an appropriate plan of action based on each situation.

Define the situation
Define the situation of each person with respect to competence and motivation.


This chart gives you a warning about the assignments that you shouldn’t accept: those that you don't find motivating and those you don't like doing.  One thing is certain: you won’t succeed in this work alone! And if you accept it, it’ll cost you a lot of energy to do! 😬

If you can choose your colleague (which isn’t always the case in a hierarchical relationship), it’s pointless seeking use someone with this profile as it would lead to problems!


Perhaps you are an expert in your field, but the work has become routine for you and you no longer find pleasure in starting, you no longer see the point of the action.

This might be the moment to hand things over, or even to move on to other assignments. This might also be the opportunity to share an assignment and transmit your knowledge. If you or your colleague consider yourself to be in this situation, then ask yourself about your roles, particularly with regard to your principals. (Who will be in contact with the client?)

Considering each person's autonomy, the room for manoeuvre is relative. Agree on actions, work pace, results and  intermediate steps needed to ensure achievements. Be honest: it’s not always easy to perform well when you’re not motivated! To avoid it impacting others, plan your work and ensure that undertakings are respected by everyone (including you 😉).


Motivated by the action or context, you are launching yourself upon something new. You may have a lot to learn about the situation so you need to develop or strengthen your skills. All actions are worth implementing in order to learn: a tutorial, working in tandem, a training course, etc. Choose to work on low-stakes assignments, and leave the high-stakes to the experts.

At this level, autonomy is weak. The priority is to secure achievements. It could be helpful if you’re bossy, or if others are bossy for you. Agree step-by-step, passing to the next step once results are seen.


You like the assignment that you’re preparing yourself for. You know that you have the skills because it’s a field that you regularly work in. You can take risks and step out of the usual framework. Or, you can let your colleague do it if they are the one with the expertise. The goal here is to continue to develop your knowledge and professionalism.

At this level, strong autonomy is needed. Let your colleagues take action: they know how to! Take risks: now’s the time! And capitalise on your successes so that they become learning experiences. There’s no need for others to intervene in your work or, if they are competent and motivated, for you to meddle in theirs.

How to apply this diagram concretely?

Let’s take an example:

You’ve just accepted a new assignment to work with a client who can become a good reference for you. But the assignment doesn’t really interest you because it's something new for you. In spite of everything, you’re motivated so you’ll enjoy the work. You’re in a learning situation. You still have to determine the means for success which involves finding a coach who’ll guide you in performing your assignment. They could act as a peer, with whom you share the assignment, or even, truly an external coach who will bring you the necessary expertise and enable you to learn in the best possible manner.

Another example:

Your network has just asked you to collaborate on an assignment. Position yourself on the chart. And position those who will work with you. Will you be their coach? Or, how are you going to enable them to transmit knowledge to you?

This approach will guide you in clearly determining the autonomy that you can give yourself and that which you can give to your colleagues/peers.

Learn to delegate part of your work

According to the situation, you’ll choose to collaborate or you’ll be constrained to share an assignment. Perhaps it’s the context, or else the nature of the action to be taken, that will lead you to distribute the work between you and one or several players.

You learned about distributing work in the previous chapter.

You can rely on the previous model to give you tools for delegation.

First of all, delegation isn’t a game of pass the parcel. It’s not about giving to others the work that you don’t feel like doing. But rather, it’s about distributing it so that you’re guaranteed the best possible results. You’ll have to delegate when you entrust an assignment you’re responsible for to somebody else.

In this division of labour, you can delegate:

  • An assignment with not much at stake: to people that you coach, who are in a learning situation. It’s the opportunity to share your work and with responsible trusted people who will use the opportunity to learn. Agree on the methods to assure quality of service. 

  • An assignment with high stakes, but low visibility: It's pointless to ask unmotivated people who are in a position to transmit their knowledge to take on a high-visibility role! Agree on the person's needs and working methods. Recognise the fact that they’re transmitting their knowledge to you, at their pace and under their conditions.

  • A high-stakes high-visibility assignment: Sharing files and developments with the people who are in a development phase lead to risk-taking, abandoning well-trodden paths and getting out of their comfort zone. Those people teach you through their way of acting, innovating, finding their own solutions, organising themselves etc.

Let’s take an example:

You’ve concluded a new contract with high stakes as it’s going to be a large part of your work for the next three years. Your client is demanding and expects that you will provide both expertise and reliability, while listening to what they want. You're an expert in part of the work but will need to strengthen your skills for one part of the development. You could seek out a colleague and delegate part of the work to them. If you are confident that this colleague has good interpersonal skills as is professional, you could delegate part of the assignment to them (even share part of the contract with them). However, if you feel that they’re professional but a risk to work with the client, then you would remain the point person with the client. You’ll have to establish the working methods with your subcontractor with regard to scheduling, notifications, production etc., but also with regard to communication, in order to enable them to have the necessary information at the right time.

Communicate in order to work in a completely autonomous way

Perhaps, your work situation doesn’t currently allow you to be constantly at the side of the people you’re working with. It might be a choice on your part, or situation imposed upon you. Whatever the case, you’re working with others remotely. In a previous chapter, you dealt with the tools and working conditions that allow you to be comfortable in your work. But, it’s also necessary to define the methods of communication needed for adjusting and coordinating the work.

A successful autonomous worker reinforces close ties with their partners, even if they’re not physically with them. 😁

You have at your disposal all the classic communication tools (both oral and written).

What makes the difference with working in close proximity, is that you have to build trusting relationships with others. 😁

At a distance, you must satisfy yourself that:

  • The messages that you send are properly read and understood: the differences between how we communicate sometimes means that what seems simple to us isn’t simple for others. An acknowledgement of receipt isn’t sufficient to assure you that the message has been properly understood. Constantly check that you understand the whole subject properly.

  • Everyone complies with the instructions (that includes you): following instructions helps to build trusting relationships. Apply that rule to yourself first, it will then be easier to apply it to others. Also, satisfy yourself that the others really have the means to succeed. They may also have constraints that you don’t know about.

  • You’ve set up time for discussion as needed (this requires strict time management): allowing a time for debriefing may sometimes seem to you less pressing than an appointment with a prospective client. But, you have to be reliable, otherwise your work could get put off forever.

  • The means of communication used should be the right ones: ask yourself what tool to use for each context: Skype, telephone conference call, email, drive, instant messaging, etc. Just because you’ve used a tool before, doesn’t mean you have to do it again. Constantly question yourself. It’ll make you more successful!

  • You’ve built a team spirit: even if it’s only ephemeral, success is a matter of cohesion. Communication is a key factor in achieving this. Everyone needs to stick to their role, their assignment, their expectations: even if, on the way, new opportunities arise. Ensure that you all have a win-win mindset.

In the previous example, where you keep the relationship with your client to yourself, you’ll need to  ensure that you transmit all pertinent information to your subcontractor as the works progress. To do this, set up regular report backs with your partner to make sure the productive work gets done and that they have the information they need to work in a completely autonomous way.

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement