You’ve heard it said; “When the cats away, the mice will play.” Will they? And if they do, is it a bad thing?
Do you wonder what goes on when you’re not there, especially if you’re going to be gone for more than a week. Do you have visions of office parties, long lunches, coming in late and leaving early? Well you shouldn’t. What it really comes down to is one word: trust. Do you trust your staff to do their job when you’re not around? If you do, they will probably do their jobs above and beyond your expectations. If you have doubt, you are probably right and they will do their jobs below your expectations.
The reality is that there shouldn’t be any difference whether you’re there or not. If you have set clear expectations, your staff will know what to do and will accomplish the task at hand. I have found over the years that I’ve never hired an employee who walks into work with the attitude of how can I screw things up today. Will people fail? Yes. Will people make poor decisions? Yes. It’s how you respond to them and coach them through that process that will set the tone for things to come.
In one of my earlier blogs “Leadership lessons from the bowling alley,” I took the leadership team out to the bowling alley for some fun with a lesson wrapped around it. What I didn’t tell you is that while we were at the bowling alley, the staff sent us pictures from the office. They had set up a mock bowling alley in the office with plastic pins and were having fun. I cracked up. So when the cats away, the mice do play. Did the work get done? Yes. But it made me realize, that the staff felt comfortable to play and have fun openly.
So how do you create this type of an environment? It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over time. You set the expectations. When your staff knows what you expect from them, they will meet your expectations.
You set the tone. Is it OK to have fun in the workplace? Do you hear laughter in the office? When you walk through the office does everyone put their head down and look busy?
Stop and engage with an individual or the whole staff, and share a funny story, or something that’s going on that they may not be aware of. Set up the bowling pins and buy a special coffee for the first one to get a strike.
Let your staff know you expect them to get the job done. Let them know you expect them to have fun. The next time the cats away, know it’s all right if the mice do play.
Mike Klockenbrink is chief of staff at Lakeside Church, Folsom, CA.