Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Would You Rather Keep the Rules or the People?

This week I'm happy, and honored, to relinquish my blog to guest bloggers, Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans, the authors of the newly revised book, Love 'Em or Lose 'Em.

If innovation is so important, why is it so hard to support? Why is it so easy to say no before saying yes? Why is it easier to see if there is a precedent for what an employee wants to do?
When your employees come to you with new ideas, concepts, or rule breakers, they want to hear “You’ve got a point” or “Let’s give it a try” or “Maybe that will work.” They want you to (at least occasionally) go to bat for them – to truly advocate for the change they want.  What prevents you from doing that?
Are You Boxed In?
You have no doubt been asked (probably more than once) to think “outside the box.” How ironic that most managers feel like the box has been handed to them (often by their bosses) and that they are supposed to think and act inside it. The box typically feels fairly rigid, as if it were made up of concrete walls—the rules. But with a shift in thinking, your box can be composed of different materials, each with unique properties. Here is an example:
This box has walls made of four materials.
Concrete. This wall represents rules that are truly rigid. It cannot be broken, pushed, bent, or shattered. “You must have a medical degree to practice medicine in this hospital.”
Glass. This wall is strong and sturdy, but if you hit it just the right way with just the right instrument at the right time, it will break. It represents the rules that may seem unbreakable but actually can be broken. “A woman will never be CEO of a major corporation.”
Rubber. This wall is thick and strong, but it has some give to it if you are willing to push hard. It represents rules that might be pliable. “We all put in a 40-hour week, from eight to five, five days a week.”
Vapor. This wall is made up of our beliefs, assumptions, and perceptions about the rules. “People will never fly.”

If you examine the rules you operate by, you will find that few of them are truly concrete. They just feel that way. The most formidable aspect of the box is often the vapor wall. Your beliefs and assumptions— or the company’s—often prevent you from questioning the rules. They may also keep you from hearing your employees’ questions.

Try this:
·         - The next time your employees question you about the rules (about their jobs, the organization, or the work at hand), stop before you say, “It can’t be done.”
·        - Check to see which wall is holding you (and others?) in the box. 
·         - Unless it is truly the concrete wall, work with your employees to bend or break the rules. Test the vapor wall and the beliefs that box you in. Evaluate new ideas fairly before you discard them.

Your talented people want you to recognize their good ideas and innovative solutions, and they want you to support their questioning. You will increase the odds of engaging and keeping them if you allow them to question the rules about their jobs, the workplace, and even the business.

Beverly Kaye is the Founder of Career Systems International. Sharon Jordan-Evans is the President of the Jordan Evans Group. This blog post is based on concepts from Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. This bestselling book provides twenty-six strategies to keep talented employees happy and productive. In addition to updating and revising all information for the fifth edition, the authors have included more international stories and statistics. Available January 2014 on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere!

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