I was interviewing a candidate for a role at Helastel this week and as I heard her speak about her previous experiences as an employee, I began to realise the high value of flexibility in a workplace. I take it for granted the way our business functions around the individual lives of each of the team: it’s okay to lose the tie, to feel comfortable in the working environment and to go for lunch when you’re hungry. If you are a night-owl, an early-bird mum or a dad, let’s work with that.
This candidate was visibly relieved on hearing that things would be more relaxed at Helastel, which reminded me that it is still commonplace for employers to maintain a pretty strict rule book for the office. The belief underneath this may be that if staff are left to decide for themselves, their commitment and productivity will whither and die. This is about fear versus trust, and relates as much to customer service as it does to line management.
In allowing a reasonable level of freedom one is demonstrating trust that the other will deliver; not because they are forced to, but because they want to. The relationship is equal, and a common goal allows us to let go of the details. In managing a project (web, software or otherwise), being lead by our fear of failure results in a need to control every aspect. Whilst this can provide a comforting appearance of solidity, experience shows that when taken too far it simply leads to a tense and static process. When we lead by trusting ourselves, our customers, our team, we can gain better results and actually have some fun along the way. Thanks to http://www.flickr.com/photos/devastar/ for the photo!