In my previous post I described a seven-year study on workplace productivity found that employees thrive when they are given discretion to make decisions. For many managers, especially new ones, this can be a scary proposition. What happens if an employee makes a big mistake on your watch?
We’ve found ways at my company to encourage good independent employee decisions, while still giving people support and direction when necessary. For example, I’ll ask an uncertain employee, “What do you think we should do?” This open-ended question encourages them to begin thinking of solutions and developing their decision-making skills. I also try to give some parameters, particularly when decisions involve expenditures, For example, “Go ahead with your idea and purchase XYZ if it’s less than $1,000. If it ends up being more than $1K, circle back with me and we can talk about it.”
It’s also helpful to clearly communicate the outcome that you’re looking for and to share, if it’s true, that you’re open to whatever path will get them there (assuming it’s legal and within reasonable fiscal limits!).
Despite an employee’s best efforts, they will make mistakes. It’s just part of work and life. When this happens at Intertech, I share the story of how I screwed up as a college kid on our family farm. If you’ve read my book, Building a Winning Business, you probably cringed as I described breaking the axel on my Dad’s truck while trying to haul a log. Fearing the worst, I reluctantly confessed to my Dad. To my immense relief, he simply replied: “If you do nothing, you’ll make no mistakes.”
I like that story because it helps to create perspective. When someone is taking a mistake or situation too seriously, or they’re dealing with someone who is taking themselves or a situation too seriously, I share that “If this is the biggest problem they’ve got (or we’ve got), life is going pretty well.” It’s usually true!
Next post: Let the sun shine!