Do you Uber?

“I’ll call you a cab.”

“Don’t worry!“ the cry comes back. “I’ll Uber it.” 

Okay, I think to myself, I’m obviously missing something. So I book my next taxi trip on Uber. And you know what? It was cool. It told me where the cab was, I could watch it approaching, I knew the driver’s name and passenger reviews before he arrived. I could cancel the booking if I didn’t like what I saw, all at the (metaphorical) click of a button. How good is that?

Anyhow, before you start thinking I’m an over-excited late adopter, there’s a point to this story.

Not only did I love the Uber experience, but evidently so did my driver. I asked him, “What’s your experience of Uber?” His response: “I feel so much more connected to the job. I know who I’m picking up, I can call you… I feel like I’ve been given a bit more control. And that feels good.

He said it. Give me a bit more control, and that feels good. Autonomy. (Sound familiar, Mr Pink?*)

So let’s flip that on its head. The “old school” system controls taxi jobs via a central system. People take bookings at the call centre and despatch them via a computerised bookings system. Jobs are despatched with minimum information, and both driver and passenger are pawns in the system. It usually works, but I always have that strange feeling of pleasant surprise when a driver does actually turn up (and I give a small prayer of thanks to the god of taxis).

What’s the lesson in this for you and me? Pretty simple: find a way to give people a little more control than they had before. Take Craig for example. Craig is a Good and Helpful Manager. Like a Good and Helpful Manager, Craig wanted to make his team’s life easier. So he would compile all the sales data from the week, carefully analyse it and present key themes at the following week’s sales meeting. But Craig found it disconcerting that his team would regularly come and ask him about sales data before he’d had the chance to analyse it. “I haven’t had a chance to work through that, yet. It’ll be ready by the next sales meeting.” Don’t they realise it’s not that simple, he would say to me.

But the problem with Good and Helpful Managers is that they often hold on to too much, and inadvertently keep the rest of the team at a safe distance from the stuff that will give them a sense of control. After a couple of conversations with Craig, he agreed to let go (while hyperventilating into a brown paper bag).

And the team loved him for it. Sure, Craig needed to help them interpret the data in a helpful way. And he would still share his own analysis at the weekly sales meeting, when he felt it offered the team a new perspective on things. But the difference now was that it wasn’t Craig’s data. It was everyone’s.

Craig had gone Uber. Can you?

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts. When have you had to coax yourself to let go, only to find others loving their new level of autonomy? Leave your thoughts below.




* I’m referring here to Daniel Pink, the author of Drive, in which he distils human motivation down to 3 key ingredients: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. If you have't already seen it, here's a great animation of a talk Dan Pink gave at the TED Global Conference in 2009, called the Puzzle of Motivation.


PS. Thanks to Andru1308 for the photo used in this month's post.