Enabled vs. Allowed


Enabled vs. Allowed

Building a great company, or a great parking operation, is hard. The thing that makes it so hard is also the thing that makes it great: the people, from the top of the organization to the bottom. It’s fascinating to me to watch people operate inside the confines of the business they represent. 

Folks who’ve spent any amount of time with me have heard about my love for being “be a student of the game.” AKA, carefully observing situations where I’ve been on the other side of the table. For example, I’ve essentially been in “sales” all my career and I love to study the salespeople I meet when they are trying to sell me something. I pay attention to what they say, how they say it, etc. By being a student, I learn what I like and what I don’t like. I can then incorporate, or not, the thing I liked or didn’t like. 

Equally as fascinating for me is to present an individual with a challenge and watch them process the best way to solve the problem. From that interaction, I can tell immediately if that person is working for a company that “allows” or “enables” their people. What do I mean?

Take a simple example, let’s say I need to return a sweater at Nordstroms vs. taking that same sweater back to “insert old department store name here.” At Nordstroms, their people are legendary for being enabled to do whatever it takes to solve the customer’s problem, even if it means circumventing internal rules to do it.

At other places, you can see the person with whom you’re dealing twist themselves into a pretzel trying to talk you through why they can’t accept the return or under what circumstances they are allowed to accept the return. It feels a lot different, for you and for the employee. 

When we “enable” our people, we’re empowering them to think on their own and make judgement calls. Whereas when we “allow” people, we are removing their ability to think and stripping their job down to following a set of rules. The higher notion is in an enabled environment, there are no mistakes as long as the higher cause was served. In an allowed environment, the focal point is whether the rules were followed and if corrective actions must be taken. 

Don’t get me wrong, there must be rules in many instances, and we have plenty of rules here at Parker Technology. However, we’ve also worked hard to enable our people to do what’s best for our customers. Interestingly, operations go much more smoothly when our customers enable us to make judgement calls on their behalf, as well. If I’ve learned anything about parking during my seven years, I’ve learned that every parking facility and every parking situation is different. Hard and fast rules tend to wilt under the white-hot spotlight of exceptions that invariably crop up.

I’m currently re-reading a book to further help shape my thinking. It’s entitled “Great Leaders Have No Rules” by Kevin Kruse. I finished chapter one, Close Your Open Door Policy, on the treadmill this morning. You get the gist of his point by reading the title of the chapter, and at first blush it grinds my gears, but then I listen/read on and it all makes perfect sense.

He’s telling us as leaders to close our doors and make our people figure it out themselves. In other words, enable them to make judgement calls; enable them to get used to organizing their work with peers and subordinates without your approval; enable them to have the satisfaction of seeing something all the way through on their own. That last part is most important to me.

If our businesses are going to thrive, we need a workforce motivated to come to work every day. I feel the most empowered and motivated when my boss (or board) conveys confidence in me and hands me the reigns to get something done without additional qualifications or allowances. 

This generation specifically, but the entire workforce in general, wants more than ever to be enabled to do their jobs with a higher purpose in mind, not a withering set of rules they’re to be caught breaking. And the truth is, the better we are at doing this, the more we liberate leader and labor to do their best work. 

As leaders, we all want to find new and innovative ways to create an even better business or operation. And if you embrace being a student of the game, you’ll already know our teammates don’t want to be allowed to do their jobs, they want to be enabled. The pay off is that everyone wins. Let’s do that!

Article contributed by:
Brian Wolff
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