As any parent of a toddler knows, boundaries are important.
In fact, they are just as important for adults and team members as they are for those just learning to walk. The difference is that those boundaries shift from limiting juice packs and playing nice to understanding responsibilities – and playing nice.
At ENAVATE, we created our core values and corporate boundaries before we began our empowerment journey. And while it may seem that a truly empowered organization would smash boundaries, that’s not the case at all. We’ve found that boundaries and empowerment not only complement each other, but neither could work without the other.
When we created our core values and boundaries, we told team members ‘this is what we want to achieve, but there are things we don’t want to do to achieve those goals.' And these boundaries, which must be respected, are as vital to our corporate culture as our core values.
Namely, we won’t:
- Exhaust our team members. We want you to have time to re-energize.
- Have our team members be connected on vacation. We want you to spend time with your family/friends/hobbies and give them your full attention.
- Be late for meetings. We will end meetings 5 minutes ahead of schedule. We will show respect for people’s time.
- Take deals where the project cannot be successful. We will exercise rigor in our pre-sales and review process.
- Hire people who put their own interests ahead of the organization’s. We will compensate well and hire people who are passionate about our company.
- Tolerate unethical or disrespectful behavior.
That last one needs no elaboration or explanation; it speaks for itself.
The first and second ones generate a lot of comment, and even controversy, not so much with our European customers, but definitely with acquaintances in the U.S. But the bottom line is we believe team members are happier, healthier and more productive and more able to contribute to the company and to benefit our customers when they are rested and able to relax and enjoy a personal life.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development consistently ranks Denmark, where I am from, in the top five - and consistently above the U.S. - among developed countries for worker productivity. Yet Danish workers, on average, toil an average of 37 hours each week, compared with U.S. workers who are on the job for an average of 44 hours weekly.
Why are they so productive in less hours? Because they are energized!
When you work 12-hour days, you work slower and less effectively because the brain and body aren’t built for that and have difficulty coping.
Now, there will always be situations where you have to give extra, but if you’re already working 12-hour days, you’ll have nothing additional to give. What’s more, if you are on a project with tight deadlines and the team must work 12 hours a day for a few days to meet the deadline, they can do it because they have the energy.
And here is an example of how empowerment and boundaries together form a happy marriage: If a new contract requires those kind of hours for three months or more, empowerment means the podmeister can tell the customer ‘we can’t do that,’ and try to negotiate a new deadline, or change the project in some other way.
If that doesn’t work, our boundaries dictate that we might have to walk away.
The same is true if a potential project of customer violates any of our other core values or boundaries – our team members are empowered to ask difficult questions, to bring difficult situation to me and ultimately, to reject a project we don’t think we could succeed or that might violate our core values and boundaries.
So, while most people view boundaries as restrictive, or telling people what they can’t do, our boundaries actually work alongside our empowerment goals to free team members.
About the Author Thomas Ajspur
Thomas is a seasoned entrepreneur who began working with Microsoft Dynamics 25 years ago as an ERP user and implementer, and then utilized it as the system to run his own business. In 1999, Thomas joined the Microsoft Dynamics Professional Services industry with a focus on building ERP high performance organizations in Europe and the US and is known in the industry for selling large international AX deals. He is CEO of ENAVATE Holdings, LLC.