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Do You Want Obedience or Judgment From Your Staff?


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I need staff to see beyond our policies and procedures. We need to be flexible in dealing with our customer’s circumstances.”

During coaching, I probed this manager’s understanding of his staff’s behavior:

  1. How did they learn the policies and procedures that are relevant to their job?
  2. Why do they follow them when they lead to customer dissatisfaction?
  3. What if they didn’t follow them, what would be the consequences?

The manager admitted the company monitors staff’s adherence to policies and the norm is to reprimand those who don’t follow them and celebrate those who do. In other words, it reinforces policy alignment and squashes any thoughtful approach to do something different in a particular circumstance.

Rules Are Tools Not The Road Map For Fools.

That’s what a mentor told me many years ago. He wasn’t against following rules. Many are essential for safety reasons, for quickly resolving routine issues and for ensuring the smooth running of a company and a society. Alternatively, rules may exist long after the situation that they were introduced to control has changed. Then rules inhibit behaviors that could be productive.

So, if my client wants his staff to us their judgment in certain circumstances, then the workplace culture must create the conditions for them to do that. They must encourage within reason “intelligent disobedience.” Here are three key conditions that will enable staff to make good decisions when existing policies and procedures miss the mark.[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#D8D8D8″ end_color=”#D8D8D8″ border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″]

  1. Define your purpose, mission and values.
    Make clear your company’s “reason for being” and reinforce it regularly. Identify in behavioral terms what you stand for and what drives your organization. For example, if you say “we’re customer focused”, then how does that play out in every department, in every store, in all your communication, etc.? This tells the staff in very explicit terms what “being customer focused” looks like, sound like and acts like.
  2. Empower by delegating authority with guidance.
    Within defined limits, well trained staff should be free to use their creativity and ingenuity to improvise and solve problems. For example, any employee at a Ritz-Carlton hotel can spend up to $2,000 a day per guest to solve problems. The outcome is not just to satisfy guests but to wow them with “legendary” service. Most importantly, if someone makes a mistake, they aren’t chewed out but rather coached and reassured.
  3. See your policies and procedures as “works in progress”.
    That means you review and refine them regularly. Create mechanisms to learn from your staff’s experiences, especially those on the front line. They can spot stupid or need to adapt policies and procedures. Remember, what seemed “right” or worked well in the past may not be appropriate today because of marketplace and workplace changes.[/message]

Smart Moves Tip:

Realize that some rules are hard and some are soft. Putting these three key conditions in place will guide your staff and give them the confidence to do the right thing.

Have you broken an official rule recently in order to do what was in the best interest your team or company? What was the rule? Were there consequences for you – good or bad? What did you learn from it? Share your thoughts!

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Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidlehttp://www.smartmovescoach.com
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!

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