Autonomy as the Future of Work

PERKS Editorial Team

PERKS Editorial Team


April 20, 2022

The Building Culture Podcast - Episode 5.2

Ally Fekaiki, "Autonomy as the Future of Work"

If flexibility and autonomy are integral to the future of work, how can leaders and administrators create a more human workplace where these elements are built into the culture? We talk with Ally Fekaiki, CEO & Founder of Juno, on different leadership styles, adaptability, and advice.


You can download the episode here.
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Show notes:

  • Ally Fekaiki is the CEO & Founder of Juno
    • Transitioned from filmmaking to high-growth startups
    • Noticed a theme of stress and poor well-being
    • Companies didn't know how to provide support
    • Juno is an employee well-being marketplace that allows people to choose what they want and need in order to be happy and successful at work
  • Juno has a strong focus on “more human workplaces.” What does that mean?
    • Wage stagnation trend over 40 years has impacted the way different generations view the workplace
    • Not only a more human workplace, but also a more human society
      • Well-being economy: focusing on the humans involved in the value chain
        • treating people with empathy instead of viewing them machines and cogs
      • Social movements such as MeToo, BLM signify taking a stand against bad behavior (to put it lightly)
  • What do you believe is the role of leaders and administrators in making the workplace more human?
  • Having trust and empathy also brings about better culture. In your opinion, what does autonomy in the workplace look like?
    • Based on the understanding that no two individuals are the same. We recently saw unprecedented quit rates as people sought more flexibility (hours, location)
    • BetterUp: freedom to work in a way that suits that person to reach a common goal
  • There’s a difference between saying something and doing it. When you ask a leader or manager if they micromanage, they inevitably say no. What does micromanaging look like when you have a team?
    • Often, correlation between micromanaging and a lack of trust towards employees.
    • When you don’t micromanage, it’s correlated with you trusting your employees. Do you agree?
    • The more important question here is do you trust and respect your employees to get the job done without micromanaging? Personal experiences?
  • Why does it matter? What are the results of an autonomous workforce?
    • More motivation and innovation
    • Greater job satisfaction (always playing by the rules vs. reaching personal milestones, not doing it for somebody else)
    • Happy people are good employees. Less likely to leave if they feel they are valued contributors on your team
    • Less conflict (leaders who are trusted can also be approached)
    • Managers of one become better managers of others (molding new leaders)
  • This sounds amazing. Let’s chat about what makes a “good” leader. Personally, I feel more valued when my manager checks in on me, where I feel supported. 
    • Came across this while researching stay interviews a couple years back
    • Basically they are casual sit-downs with direct reports checking in on them and getting feedback on how they’re doing, any challenges they might have.
      • We all know that stay interviews are part of becoming an effective leader. Do you have any advice for our listeners in leadership?
    • Listening
    • Training - start with smaller tasks like preparing a meeting agenda, what activity to do for the next team bonding
    • Implementing feedback
    • We often hear “employees leave bad managers, not organizations.” 
    • Ally, what are some characteristics of great leaders?
    • Boss vs. leader illustration
  • Why is feedback important? How do you gather feedback from members of the Juno community?
    • Important when given in the right way
    • Don't sugarcoat things - give it in a timely manner and be straightforward
      • waiting can make things worse
    • Too much feedback can lead to feeling micromanaged
      • Some are irrelevant
    • Remember what your organization values
      • Juno: Passion, collaboration, energy, high standards
        • Can give feedback on those values
        • Use your better judgment on whether your feedback will improve performance or hurt morale
      • Is someone's performance a result of an external factor, e.g. road closure, health issues?
  • Why is it so hard as a leader to let go of the reins, or give up control?
    • It's your baby, your passion - distributing responsibilities to someone else can be daunting
    • Managers and leaders are always encouraged to use empathy, but it should go both ways
      • Reality: you can't do everything, so sometimes you must compromise
      • Provide the opportunity to someone
        • Although it might not go 100% according to plan, you appreciate the person who trusted you and gave you the opportunity
    • Leaders also need support
  • What happens when things go sideways? 
    • Bring in an impartial party
      • Understanding power dynamics is important
      • Could be another team member
        • Should be a senior person in the company - don't want to create a psychologically unsafe space
    • Give it some time, allow emotions to cool down
      • "When in doubt, do nothing" - NBA coach Phil Jackson
        • If there is any hesitation about whether saying x is the right thing, allow the emotion to pass
    • Listen
      • Allow people to express themselves
      • Always have respect
    • Address what caused the situation and work on solutions
    • Accountability (team member and leader) and transparency
  • In your experience, is it different or even harder to lead a team remotely than it is in-person? Do you think that has influenced the recent decisions of companies such as Apple and Google to go back to the office?
    • Not harder or easier, just different. Each setting has its own challenges.
    • Communication
    • Opinion: The decision to force people back to the office is short-sighted and a little arrogant.
      • For companies who have been known for their innovation, they aren't willing to try remote?
  • Ways you can practically support a more autonomous workplace - how can Juno help?
    • Juno's mission is to inspire more human workplaces by inspiring employees to make better choices
    • Work globally to support employees to find what makes them happy and fulfilled at work (e.g. babysitter, movie night, etc.)
      • Employers not just a paycheck, but a lifestyle; enabling you to have time back in your life
  • Mitchell Demeter for Fast Company: “It’s the case of choosing innovation to embrace the future rather than clinging to invention to stay in the past.”
    • Let’s be leaders and administrators who do what we say we’re going to do, and give the kind of trust we want others to give us.