What if there were no bosses? If there were no office hours, no vacation policy, how would the people make decisions? If there were no one watching, what would lead them to make good decisions that cared for the business and your customers? What if the ultimate responsibility were theirs?
This may sound Utopian - or foolish, depending on your perspective. But it's increasingly the reality of business. In our industry, it's here.
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The combination of big territories, big employee-to-manager ratios, distributed locations and the raw speed of business means that employees are making their own decisions much of the time. Your policies and caps and meetings and policy reviews simply can't keep up with the pace of business. Control-based top-down rules and approvals end up looking foolish and bureaucratic.
So, what then?
This is not to say that policies and rules are obsolete (a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, for example, is an excellent one). But regardless of how much you elaborate on the rules, you need your employees to make judgments... sound, moral, positive judgments. And the only way to get there is to establish a culture of values. Here are the four values that I recommend to my customers; each is personally controllable by the individual and helps him/her make better decisions both internally (with team members) and externally with clients. Share them, talk about them.
Be Curious. Healthy, appropriate curiosity leads one to ask more and better questions of customers and coworkers. It generates true empathy. It builds trust and connection. Curious people want to know how things work, more about the customer's business...more about their co-worker's role and queue.
Be Generous. Those who are generous don't keep score. They continue to treat customers like customers even when there's no big jackpot in front of them. They give coworkers the benefit of the doubt. They don't infer motives that are not there. They help others. They focus on making a difference while also making a profit.
Be Tenacious. Tenacious employees go the extra mile for customers and coworkers. They don't accept the easy, obvious answer. They stay with the conversation, the project or the problem - that much longer. They take the time to examine the situation fully.
Be Worthy. Worthiness is about the journey, not the destination; about the quality and excellence of work and effort, not just about the score. It's not about getting... it's about deserving. Deserving the customer's trust, deserving the best efforts of your coworkers, deserving the job you have and the success you crave. As John Adams said, We cannot assure success. We can only deserve it.
If you want your team to thrive, let them make the decisions within a culture where values are the dominant drivers. Then get out of the way.