Enjoy this excerpt from our new book, Healthy Leadership.

Leaders at Toyota coach toward autonomy to build ownership behavior in their teams. As part of The Toyota Way, employees submit suggestions to their team. They are suggestions the employees can implement themselves or with a teammate—in other words, this initiative is something employees control without need for management approval.

At one point, Toyota received about 1.5 million employee improvement ideas each year. More impressively, 80 percent of these ideas were implemented, saving the company $300 million annually.

Keep in mind, these are frontline manufacturing workers whom you might think typically have less autonomy than an office worker. These impressive results required no executive approval or committees. That’s autonomy at work! So, how did Toyota do it?

Virtually all these ideas are implemented at the employee level. Executives don’t oversee how the suggestions get addressed. Problems and improvements are identified, solved, and measured by each team—the experts in their jobs.

It’s not the company mandating these improvements; rather, accountability and results are driven at the ground level, where the rubber meets the road. 

Even though many of Toyota’s employees perform repetitive jobs in auto assembly plants, they are empowered to be thoughtful and engaged about improving their work output and their work lives. This approach sends a strong message that employees have control.

It’s no surprise that Toyota became America’s top automaker in 2021. This is the first time a non-domestic automaker has taken the top spot in America.

This growth in the deeply entrenched U.S. auto market was powered by a healthy need for autonomy. What kind of impact would this approach to autonomy have in your organization?

Being a great coach means many things. It is about unlocking the potential in others by helping employees cultivate their strengths, asking the right questions, and providing autonomy so employees take ownership for results.

Healthy Leadership Book