Allow employees to take unexpected paths: It leads to unexpected gifts

Grace-with-packageYesterday Grace and I were outside in the backyard for a while and as we headed in, I lost track of her.  I called for her, patiently waiting for her to return. Starting to get irritated at her lack of responsiveness, I grumpily headed to find her. Going through my mind were thoughts of how inconsiderate she was to ignore me, wasting unnecessary time, as I needed to head out to an appointment.

I couldn’t find her in the normal spots, such as sniffing around the driveway retainer wall where a chipmunk frequents or the roadside smells of who-knows-what-was-there-but-she-always-wants-to-find-out. I kept searching around the house, surprised at where I found her and what was there with her. I immediately realized the irony at my earlier agitation. She had discovered a package I was expecting, delivered to a door we never use; our normal UPS guy always leaves deliveries at our porch entrance, never here. I have no idea if it was Grace’s sense of smell or accidental good luck that led her there (and stayed despite my calls to her), but her tenacity to remain got my attention, otherwise the box could have been there for days.

Whether with wayward dogs or employees, it’s far too easy to get impatient with a behavior that we aren’t anticipating or don’t approve, yet allowing some leeway can provide value to everyone. I came around to thank Grace for finding the package for me, but that was certainly not my original sentiment when she took off without me.

Effective managers don’t need to have all the answers; controlling every task or project is not productive. Offering opportunities to employees for exploration will bring wide-ranging benefits, if you make the effort to support them. It might mean allowing extra time built into the schedule, or perhaps a conversation to encourage risk-taking. Grace took off on her own, but sometimes offering a nudge is needed to get the creative juices flowing.

What path will you encourage others to take today?

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