DH guest blogger Henry Stewart is Chief Executive of the London-based Happy Ltd., a training company which has earned numerous awards including rankings in the World's Most Democratic Workplaces and the UK's Best Workplaces, and the Institute of IT Training's Gold medal for Training Company of the Year. Download Henry's book, The Happy Manifesto, for free, read his blog, or check him out on Twitter @happyhenry.
My UK-based company is called simply Happy Ltd., so it is no surprise that we are very committed to the Delivering Happiness concept. We have been listed in the UK’s top 20 businesses for five successive years, so I am often asked what is the key to creating a happy workplace?
I’ve just a written a book with what I see as the 10 key principles of a great workplace but for me one thing stands out. Think about when you have been most strongly motivated and worked at your best. When I ask people what characterised those times it was rarely being well paid or even good communication from management. Nearly always it was a time when there was trust and the freedom to do the job the way they wanted.
What makes people unhappy is being micro-managed and lots of layers of approval which get in the way of getting things done. Great management is, for me, about getting out of the way and here’s a simple way to do that:
As a manager you will often task an individual or a group to solve a problem or come up with a new way of doing things, and ask them to report back to you. Don’t ask for that. Instead approve the idea before they come up with it. Agree the guidelines, the budget, maybe who is affected and needs to be consulted but “pre-approve” the implementation.
We are a training business and I received an email from one of our associates, thanking me for three changes which made it easier for her to do her job and help the customer. I was struck by two things. First, I didn’t know the changes had happened. They hadn’t come across my desk for approval. But second I realised that, if they had come across my desk, I would have rejected two of them. I thought up many of the methods we use and I, like many managers, am a natural barrier to changing them. I realised that, to avoid blocking innovation, the best way was to make sure new ideas did not have to be approved by me.
This year we applied Pre-Approval to our web site. It’s a pretty important part of the business and, in the past, I had always been actively involved. The result was that the Webmaster never fully owned the task and always felt the site could have been great if not for my changes. This time' round, we agreed the principles in advance, but I only got to see the new site the night before it launched. And visitors tripled immediately.
What can you pre-approve today?