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Freedom within the framework’ is a phrase that is getting bantered around a lot lately.

But what exactly does it mean?

In my view, it is not an invitation to think ‘outside the box’ …. It’s about thinking within the box.

A while ago there was a lot of expansion about letting people think outside the box, and how important it was for creativity … but here’s the stark truth:  Did you know that freedom will destroy itself if it isn’t exercised within some sort of principled framework?

The trick is to make the ‘framework’ a little flexible …

When leaders have the opportunity to decide company strategy and objectives within some adaptable parameters then leaders feel empowered – because they know they are not ‘locked into’ something that will never change, and yet there is ‘loose agreement’ around where everyone is headed. And this kind of culture actually empowers leaders and it encourages ‘creative, big picture, blue sky’ thinking because there’s an approximate start and end point. A context. Without context, there would otherwise be chaos.

Not only do leaders who are empowered to operate within this kind of paradigm feel heard and valued – they actually become accountable. Because they have been trusted to take charge. And when people are asked to rise to the challenge, they usually – almost always –do. They go the extra mile to make it happen, and they will be responsible for the outcome.

This gives leaders a wonderful opportunity to flourish, create, innovate and execute at their own pace, and a willingness to pursue whatever opportunities light them up, motivate them and excite their internal drivers, within the context that is aligned with the organisations vision.

True freedom is trust …

By applying high freedom in a low framework, you create a culture that breeds an entrepreneurial mindset.

There is, however, a potential downside. When you have a ‘low framework’ which means ‘soft boundaries’ you can run the risk of having leaders everywhere going off and doing their own thing – that is, creating their own business within the business. But having a ‘high framework’ doesn’t solve a thing because it only creates barriers and resistance.  

The balance, I believe, is in supporting the low framework – that is, lots of flexibility – with a highly collaborative environment – where all ideas are heard and respected and where people at all levels are encouraged to contribute and help to solve problems creatively, bringing their own individual talents, skills and ideas to the table.

Committed versus involved …

To create a collaborative culture, leaders and team members need to be committed, rather than just involved.  Commitment denotes ‘skin-in-the-game’ a desire to be emotionally connected. Involvement denotes a personal agenda – a ‘WIFM’ mentality that is connected to an outcome, rather than the journey to the outcome.

True collaboration can only happen when people are connected to the vision with their hearts and their minds. And this can only happen when people feel empowered.

Empowerment is to give power away …

To empower is to provide them with what they need to make a decision. It requires encouragement to enable them to think on their own two feet. And to make decisions and solve problems within the spheres of their responsibility and authority.  

Gone are the days of ‘command and control’ and the old-fashioned hierarchical orientated environment. The kind of environment that creates managers and employees. Organisations of today are seeing the benefits of applying a ‘freedom within the framework culture’. Creating companies where people are happy to be working together, harmoniously and productively and seeing issues before they arise because all people (no matter what their role) is entitled and accepted to contribute. In my experience, the best ideas can come from anywhere … just as the most timely ‘big red flags’ can come from anywhere.  And when everyone is respected and valued and empowered because the focus shifts … it’s not activity, it’s on productivity and when the company is productive and the customers are happy, everybody wins.