I know it's getting close to Halloween, but this post by Kathy Sierra makes me wonder if there may be some companies who play trick or treat all year long, with the trick being on the employees. She says:
- If you asked the head of a company which employee they'd prefer: the perfect team player who doesn't rock the boat or the one who is brave enough to stand up and fight for something rather than accept the watered-down group think that maintains the status quo (or makes things worse), who would they SAY they'd choose? Who would they REALLY choose?
Hiring managers always say they want passionate, engaged, creative people who can really make things happen, but they end up hiring drones who will do what they're told, no questions asked. Or if they do hire passionate people, the passion ends up getting leached out of them by micromanagement. Kathy may have learned her lessons through horse training ("The more you use your reins, the less they'll use their brains"), but I learned a similar lesson in working with my Augie dog. At dog shows, there are some dogs who go through the routines with absolute perfection. But no joy. Then there are teams like me and Augs, who have great fun, even if we mess up every now and then. But when we're on, we are red hot! The trick to training, whether it's dogs, horses, or people, is to give them the tools and directions they need, then let them figure it out for themselves. And if they don't get it, check your own behavior first: Usually, it's something the boss/trainer is doing, not the trainee, that's causing the problem. I'd say the same often is true at work.
When you loosen the leash, they not only actually learn something, but they get excited about it because they figured it out. That in itself is an incredible motivator. And once they figure it out, they'll keep tweaking to find ways to do it better. The best dog trainers know that a little patience and working through mistakes until the light bulb comes on, even if a little frustrating at times, results in a dog that loves to learn and will continue to try new ways to improve his/her performance. If you browbeat them into doing what you want, you'll get results, albeit not enthusiastic ones. They'll go through the motions, but their hearts won't be in it. If you let them figure it out for themselves, they may come up with a whole new way of doing things that actually works a lot better than what you had in mind.
Sure, it's easier to have someone who will just do what they're told and reliably phone in a decent performance. But wouldn't you rather have your staff jazzed, thinking, always looking for new ways to surprise and delight your attendees? If you're not convinced, check out what Seth Godin has to say.