My ideal workplace is one that is rich with empowerment. People don’t need to be told what to do, don’t need to be barked at to get things done. I dream of a workplace where people feel safe to express their thoughts, take risks, and try out new things despite likelihood of failure because they know that the boss got their back.
I can be quite a pushover. My team’s praise is also their criticism. “Mabait si Sir Ed”. “Masyadong mabait si sir Ed”. That’s what I get from people. Both an appreciation and criticism. There is no bundy clock in my office. People come when they think they are needed. They start and quit work for the day when they want to unless there are client commitments that need to be made. I give variable compensation and rewards that allow them to have more take home pay if they work well enough. I follow Richard Branson’s advice. Take care of your employees and they will take care of your business and your customers. After all my experiences with people, I continue to believe that with a big caveat; you have to define what “take care” means. The phrase changed for me quite recently to mean take care of their professional growth.
My approach help me keep my high performing and high potential employees. Sadly, I also kept people who find it difficult to rise above mediocrity, What I realized is that you cannot just supply knowledge to fill people’s knowledge gaps. You must make them accountable for applying their learning and make them feel that they are being held to a high standard of performance and behavior. In the past, when people fail to meet my expectations or fail to deliver, I say “ok lang yan, you’re still learning” sometimes people think it means I allow mediocrity. I’m guilty of allowing people to think that I’m ok with less than good performance. I guess to a certain extent I did and slowed down people’s growth. I learned that to build a high-performance team, people should know that nothing less is expected of them individually. While I encourage people to communicate, express their ideas and find their own way of doing things, I should not allow delays and excuses, otherwise that’s what I’ll get, “high-performance excuses.”
Here’s a proposal from my own learning. As leaders we should be clear about what is allowed and what is not. We should be capable of quickly recognizing alignment and point out misalignment. Coach, mentor, manage and eventually, if people continue to fail, manage them out so they can find other workplaces where they have a chance to do better, or do whatever they want.
Creating a safe environment and a culture of accountability should not be exclusive of each other. We can build it. Building a high performing team means building an organization that attracts people who want to grow and scare-off people who don’t have a sense of direction.