Clearing the Path
Shawnee Love •
April 22, 2016
Step 8 of creating a good culture is clearing the obstacles which prevent your employees from doing their jobs, serving their customers, growing, learning, and being successful. To be clear, this doesn’t mean make things easy. Step 5 was all about ensuring you have challenges for your people to overcome. Clearing a path simply means getting rid of the red tape, the unnecessary, and the wasteful.
You might not even realize how many obstacles you have in your organization and you probably didn’t create them intentionally. In my experience, obstacles often grow organically. People in one department will create a rule or system that works for them but unwittingly blocks another group. Or a mistake will occur, and rather than teach better judgment, a system or policy to prevent the same error gets implemented. The longer organizations exist, the more likely these hoops, hurdles, bandaids and work arounds have been added.
As a leader who wants a great culture, it is your job to seek and destroy all those little things which slow people down and make them roll their eyes because when you eliminate those frustrations, you are also clearing a path for great morale and culture.
A number of years ago, a client grew really fast. Employees were spending their own money for business purposes, including client lunches, networking events, parking, etc. which couldn’t be purchased in advance.
Accounting was struggling to keep up, so they introduced a new expense policy which required every receipt to be legible, and clearly notated with who the meeting was with/for. The date, company issuing the receipt, taxes, and total cost had to be highlighted on the receipt as well. Each receipt then had to be taped to a separate sheet of paper! Those papers had to be arranged in chronological order behind an expense form which contained much of the same information. The entire package had to be signed, dated, stapled and turned in to accounting within 3 days of the month ending or the word went out that you may not be reimbursed!
Needless to say, people balked. It was a wasteful make-work project for employees to be highlighting, taping and arranging receipts as well as documenting all the same information on the expense form. Moreover, in the rush to get them in on time, many mistakes were made and accounting was now spending more time double checking expenses than ever before.
Simplify the reimbursement process. The receipts had to be attached to the expense form. The expense form had to be filled out with the following information:
- Company issuing receipt,
- Purpose of spend,
- Total receipt and taxes.
The right solution depends on the issues and what you are trying to accomplish, but in all situations, it is important to ensure you aren’t adding unnecessary red tape. In this example, there were lots of good reasons to introduce an expense form and reimbursement process. The client just needed to align the process with the various needs and capabilities. Luckily, we dealt with it pretty quickly, because leave a frustrating process to languish and you will find they breed more. Then, one day you’ll wake up and wonder how you got to a culture where people are frustrated, unmotivated, and simply not delivering results.
Leaders who want a great culture not only do their best to fix problems when they arise but they also are continually challenging the status quo.
When challenging the status quo, the purpose isn’t to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, just be curious about why you do what you do.
- Figure out the reason(s) for the process, policy, practice.
- Ask whether those reasons are still valid.
If the answer to # 2 is the reasons aren’t valid anymore, then you clearly have an obstacle you can scrap. However, if the reasons are still valid, then you will want to ask:
Is there another way to accomplish the same objectives but get better results?
Tip: It helps to involve multiple people at this stage to ensure you get a pool of good ideas and in doing so you give a heads up to your people about the upcoming change. The more notice and consultation you have, the greater likelihood change will be accepted.