One of the more interesting locations I visited during the course I took in Singapore and India during the last few weeks was the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel in Mumbai. It is one of India’s most famous hotels, known around the world for its amazing levels of service. During our visit we heard a lecture from the head of the training division that described the history of the hotel and it’s culture. She was describing the culture of service and employee engagement and the fact that most of the employees in the hotel have worked there for more than 20 years.
Then, one of my classmates asked how does the hotel keep the employees so engaged for so long. I didn’t write the answer down, but this was, more or less, her answer:
We create employee freedom by not surrounding our employees with rules. At the same time making sure they understand the culture and what we are trying to achieve.
That sentence resonated with me. I am not surprised given my writing on outcome management and the fact that this is what I wrote a few months back as one of my lessons from Barry Schwartz’s talk at TED:
Let them to the job – people work differently. They produce the same outcomes differently. Don’t interfere. Don’t make up rules. Maybe, as Barry says, don’t even create incentives (I am not sure I totally agree with that one). Don’t try to make them do the job the way you would have done it. Give them the intellectual and mental space to work it on their own. Provide support and training but don’t create rules about the specific job. If phase one was done correctly, they will find the way to produce the outcomes you required.
Then, I read what Seth Godin wrote in Tom Peters‘ Blog about excellence (The post appeared in my RSS reader but is no longer available on the Tom Peters blog, the link is to another source on the web):
When the Ritz-Carlton hotel empowers every employee from chambermaid to manager to “make things right,” they’re not engaging in the sort of quality control most managers are comfortable with. In fact, if they were able to write down exactly what to do in every situation, the excellence factor would disappear. What the hotel accomplishes with its policy is this: they challenge their employees to become artists.
Another way to put all of this (not mine, Dan Pink’s): Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. I am really waiting to read his new book (and not only me: 1, 2) to read more about these concepts, as I think they really encompass how managers should treat their employees. Just to start you thinking. Don’t you think that saying we should give our employees Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose is the same as saying not to create rules for them?