A couple of weeks ago I was reviewing some radio adverts and taking calls from clients in Halong Bay Vietnam.
Extortionate SPARK NZ roaming charges aside, It got me thinking about how I work well and what type of environment gets the best out me while also being enjoyable.
In today's interconnected business community most of us are aware and open to the fact that work can take place anywhere for anyone, however there are still too many businesses and individuals wedded to the old ways.
Everyone knows someone or you yourself may even be guilty of being overbearingly process driven in your approach to managing staff. 'The Way', the way it always has been done. The 9-5 Monday to Friday, office bound system of work we have all grown up with.
There are businesses and individuals whose primary focus is on how things are done. They place a strict focus first on systems and processes, which they hope leads to a consistent and predictable outcome as a side effect of doing things the right way. Its meritorious and can be effective if you believe that the people at the top are all knowing and the most suitably skilled and qualified to make the right calls and setup the right systems and processes at all times while ensuring these vital systems and processes continually evolve with the business.
I remember a few nations tried this form of central planning and top down management. I think history has shown while getting some early gains it was horribly unsuccessful and inefficient in the long run and the citizens/workers revolted.
These authoritarian regime like companies are great at micro managing the life out of their employees from the top down. It's justified by some very meritorious objectives such as, risk management, compliance, eliminating key person risk, consistency of service etc. They feel an overwhelming desire to know where everyone is, what they are wearing and what they are working on at all times.
These organisations or people within them want things done 'their way' as if its the only possible method regardless of the outcome. This allows the level of control and certainty they desire but just like the USSR and Cuba leaves them vulnerable to becoming bogged down with top heavy decision making hierarchies, inefficient, unresponsive and blind to rapid changes happening many levels below the decision making power base. Along the way it disengages good people and attracts box tickers and robots to the organisation, while the independent thinkers and leaders go elsewhere.
Putting the parallels to failed centrally planned economies aside the whole process first outcome second approach that often comes with this centralised decision making structure is a little like the high school maths class. Where we are told "Its all about the working".... the answer is not important. Huh..?? this is hardly great preparation for life in my eyes and put a lot of promising students off maths in their formative years.
In reality everyone works differently, uses a different approach, peaks at different times and thrives in under different conditions.
Everyone also has their own way of attacking problems and finding solutions, while it might not be the same as others in the office, if the outcome is consistently good the method in to some extent becomes irrelevant.
The modern business needs to embrace this mindset, let go a little, throw some trust out there and let their employee's use their training, education and natural flair to find a way that works effectively for them. Some boundary's are useful but too often businesses are actually creating barriers.
What's the worst that can happen?
If it doesn't work out you might have to put in place more structure later on. That's not hard to do.
However I think if your HR/P&C are doing their job and you have the right people on board you will find your employees may surprise you! Often they may discover improved methods and processes that can be applied to that area of the business. They are also your eyes and ears in market, at the coal face and will pick up key trends and happenings that require senior management attention, while bringing a different set of solutions to be considered.
This approach to managing a team also makes staff feel valued, trusted, empowered and in the right environment with the right people will breed a new level of loyalty and responsibility. It encourages innovation as employees strive to find even better and more efficient ways to reach the end goal. It makes an organisation who knows how to harness this, nimble, responsive and innovative.
The alternative approach, which I still see far more often that I would like, is the stifling of great potential through overly arduous process and micro management. The result is a business is still paying an employee 100% of their salary or wage for less than 100% of their potential output as they haven't worked out how to extract it from them. Additionally you risk building a team of staff who feel that their ideas are not valued and their manager or owner doesn't trust them.
No matter how impressive your systems and process's both technical and procedural are, there is no way to succeed without at least relying on some human capital within your business and the best businesses play to their employees strengths and focus on results not processes.
Sometimes it takes a good manager or owner operator to realise that their staff are actually more proficient than them at many aspects of the role. That being realised their job, rather than managing them in the traditional sense is to help their team unleash their potential while supporting and encouraging them. Ask and answer questions don't dictate terms.
I for one can attest to managing people for various clients who were far superior in most technical and creative aspects of marketing than I. What a privilege that was and the outcome from embracing their skill was far superior. Successful and talented employees under you shouldn't be feared they should be embraced and encouraged.
So next time one of your staff wants to work from home, suggests doing things a little differently, seems to go well at strange times of the night... take a deep breath, and say "YES as long as the work gets done on time and to a high standard, do it your way" .... see what happens, it could be the most liberating thing you ever do for you and your employee's.
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