One of my university jobs was at a telemarketing company in Wellington, selling advertising space over the phone. Ouch. The company had an inflexible working culture. It was an 8:30am start on the dot, no questions asked. Five minutes late? You’re in trouble. If you weren’t dressed “professionally” (smart shoes, dress pants and collared shirt) you were reprimanded. If you were unshaven, they even had a work razor in the office bathroom they’d make you use!
Needless to say, as a young student, I often failed in meeting the company’s expectations. I couldn’t help but ask myself, what was actual point of this strict, regimented culture? Turning up to work and feeling like a failure, or being fearful of managerial consequences wasn’t a great way to inspire a creative, fun loving, young student. Did I really need to be clean shaven and well-dressed to perform in my job as a telemarketer?
Years later, I watched my managers in a large corporate company routinely book team meetings at 8:30am in the morning in the city. Did they not understand how bad traffic was at this time of day, or how hard the kindy or school run was without an 8:30am? Why add more pressure onto working parents? The irony is, many of these meetings were a complete waste of everyone’s time; they contributed little to performance and could have been held at any time of the day. Not surprisingly, they generated a deeply negative cultural sentiment.
The key to being a great manager, and getting the best out of your team, is understanding what motivates them and how they want to work. Enable people to work in a way that they enjoy. Coming to work feeling stressed and under pressure is not the right way to start the day. A night owl doesn’t want to be an early bird and vice versa.
Does this mean a company should forget about having baseline professional expectations? Of course not! But, if performance is what matters in your business, then take a hard look at those needless policies which make people work in a way they don’t enjoy. We’re all different and live varied lives outside of work, so effectively integrating work and life at an individual level requires flexibility from a company and its management.
Some key tips from our experience:
- Your style of working may not suit others – ask them what they prefer.
- Agree on team meeting times collectively – make sure it works for everyone.
- Have empathy for others, walk a mile in their shoes – how do your employees see the world, what’s important to them?
- Understand that enjoyment (and less stress) helps drive better performance – equipped with this knowledge, you’re in the best position to inspire performance!