Employees. I tell you what, some days it like they have a mind of their own!
Running a business would be so much easier and less stressful if you could get everything done without having to deal with humans. Unfortunately, unless you’re a soloist, you have to confront the perennial challenge of managing a business: Getting people to do what you want.
The easy path is just to be an office dictator. To set down rules like the strict old headmaster from your high school. To lead people like you’re Manuel Noriega in a corner office.
Now, as fun as it would be to send Old Man Cratchit from accounts to a gulag for not getting the accounts done by 4pm, ruling an office with a cast iron fist while nonchalantly clutching a Cuban cigar has its downsides.
First, your staff stop finding creative solutions to problems. Then they complain. Then they start trying to see what they can get away with and come in late. They go to work just for the paycheque and do the absolute minimum. Then they take stress leave and eventually leave the company. After they leave, they leak confidential documents to the press before complaining about their unfair dismissal to Fair Work Australia.
Worse, any work they do before they leave has no emotional connection to them; no “buy in”.
Of course, if you set no rules whatsoever, you effectively have as much control over your office as the doormat, albeit with slightly less appreciation.
Well, Old Taskmaster says this: There is another alternative. One that can get you more buy in.
Instead of setting out a procedure under which the resident Gen Y Techmaster must get the software project done, the Taskmaster sets it out as a common challenge.
I say to the Techmaster: “We need to get our software updated. The new software needs to be easy for our sales staff to operate – they have to make sales calls and will complain like hungry housecats if they have to enter more than a minimal amount, so the data needs to be entered by them once, quickly and accurately. Is there any way we can solve this problem?”
Note Old Taskmaster didn’t set out a specific procedure or a process here. I didn’t say “here’s the software you’ll get in the manner you’ll get it”. Nor did I have to.
Yet there are clearly defined (and quantifiable) guidelines for the task to be done in, with reasons why these guidelines are the way they are (for example, sales complaining like hungry housecats) and – after they suggest a solution – an agreed outcome. Ultimately, though, they suggested the solution, so they own it. The onus is now on them to deliver.
If you want your staff to buy into your objectives, without feeling like a doormat or a dictator, this tactic is worth a try.
Get it done – within the agreed guidelines!