Perhaps one of my most frustrating experiences are front line employees who simply say: “That’s the policy, I’m just doing what they tell us to do.” In those moments, two things happen. I become irate because management should have created a culture that invites critical thinking around what is working and what is not working with the customer. Secondly, I grieve sadly that employees would want to work–or settle–or put up with that kind of culture. I know, they’re just trying to make a living. But who wants to make a living in an organization where thinking is not encouraged and rewarded?
If there is any reason to hire an employee–as opposed to creating more computers and robots to do the job–it’s that employees can provide needed critical thinking to the job. It’s a skill that truly cannot be replaced by machine. Therefore, if you’re going to spend money hiring humans, teach them to seek innovative ways to improve their organization and the projects they are working on. And that requires challenging the process. It consists of the following:
- Searching for opportunities to change, grow and improve.
- Getting excited in finding new ways to approach one’s work.
- Treating problems as opportunities as opposed to fearing their arrival.
- Looking outward for fresh ideas. Benchmarking what others are doing and applying those ideas.
- Experimenting and taking risks through small wins.
- Learning from mistakes.
Managers should promote the psychological hardiness of their employees. Even when solutions aren’t obvious, hang in there. If doing something were easy, it would have been done already–and probably by a machine.
How can we seize the initiatives on our plate? How can we make the challenges we face more meaningful?
How can we experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from our mistakes?
How can we create a culture that wants to take the right road even when it’s the more difficult route?