One of the joys of my job is interviewing a wide diversity of people every year. They generally range from CEOs to front-liners. While you might think senior people would provide the best insights, there are times when someone who doesn’t know how to filter their comments says something that strikes at the heart of an issue. Such was the case with Sammy, a CSR with a regional distributor. I had begun by asking him how he liked his job and he said, “I love it! They have a rule for everything. I don’t have to think about anything.”

“What happens if there’s no rule for something?” I asked.

“I just ask my manager,” said Sammy, “and he tells me exactly what to do.”

At that point, I almost asked, “And why do they need to pay you?” I didn’t. But I wondered how many people in how many organizations across the US have the same impression of their job as Sammy.

The typical retort I get when I challenge managers on this point is, “We turn people so fast, there’s no point in teaching them how to think.” So, what these organizations end up with is one-and-a-half people doing every job, at least on the front line. In other words, one person to do the job and a half a person (ie. the manager) to do the thinking.

So, let’s break this down and examine the premise. First, maintaining this philosophy in a tight job market is like setting fire to thousands of dollars every month. Pouring your effort into retaining people is SO much more profitable that recruiting replacements.

Second, it’s a safe bet that the majority of those hired every year, want to feel like they’re making a contribution. In fact, most surveys reflect this. How would you feel if you discovered you were supposed to say and do the same things over and over again, forty hours a week, with no opportunity for creativity and problem solving? I’d quit in a New York Minute.

Third, how do customers and others feel when your employees say, “I’m sorry. I’m not allowed to do something outside the rules. (And you know some of them will.)

Now, you may be thinking, “This is not me. I don’t do this.” But think about how many times a week you enable those around you by answering their questions instead of making them think independently. Not only will your business thank you, your employees will as well. Why? Because you will have compelled them to develop the critical thinking skills and confidence they will need for the rest of their lives. So how about not creating a rule for everything and making them think instead?

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