I Love Working Here
Let's take a minute and talk about some of the things that can happen when you free up your employees. We were working with a healthcare organization that had a state contract for services comprising over 60 percent of its business. One afternoon, the state decided to change its way of doing business and canceled the contract. The CEO was devastated. With 90 employees, that meant laying off almost 50 of them. Maybe he wasn't a tough businessman because when he returned to his office, a tear trickled down his cheek as he contemplated what he had to do.
The next day, he called a meeting of all employees and presented the awful news to them. As he explained the serious loss of business, he sensed some rumbling among the group assembled. Eventually, one of the more outspoken employees asked for the floor and offered a plan. She said, "If you'll turn this problem over to us and not discharge any employees, we'll share the income loss and build the business so that it is better than it was when we had the contract." As the CEO, he was not certain what he should do, but given the serious state of affairs, he agreed to the proposition.
Immediately, employees organized into teams to consider ways in which business could be increased. Every employee was intently involved in discussions. Employees talked to their spouses and friends, reviewed the nature of the services they were providing, and sought out new contacts. Within a few short weeks, although the weeks seemed a bit longer to the CEO, business began to improve. In a couple of months, the company was breaking even. At the end of 6 months, the business had increased by one-third over what it had sustained with the state contract.
Incidentally, company headquarters were located in a rented building that was not particularly appealing. One of the committees created by employees concerned the maintenance of property. Although the CEO had tried for many months to get the owner of the property to landscape and improve the looks of the building, nothing had been achieved. However, the employees met with the owner of the property and explained their role in the revitalization of the business. The property owner was so surprised that he agreed to immediately landscape the area and paint parts of the building. The general appearance of the corporate headquarters was significantly enhanced through employee meetings with the property owner.
At the latest count, employees numbered over 160, and business was prospering better than it had at any time under the management of the CEO. At our last meeting, the CEO said, "Now, I just ask our associates what they think we should be doing. I concur with their suggestions and leave the office to visit other units while they get on with the business. We're having a great time. I just love working here."
Regardless of what you may have thought in the past of the idea of freeing up your employees, today you must reconsider. Today is, as a poster down the hall announces, the first day of the rest of your life. You don't have time to procrastinate on this issue. The decision to grant clemency to the employees with whom you work and give them more freedom, regardless of what they currently have, may be the most important decision you have ever made, and it may be the most important landmark of your career. Give it a try. Even though it might go down a little hard at first, you and your employees will enjoy the energizing "jolt" that will occur. Even though you may truly snap a suspender in the process, you'll like it.