Workplace blogs
Workplace blogs

To Motivate and Inspire Employees, Get Out of Your Own Way!

One of my favorite quotes that captures the essence of what is wrong with so many workplaces comes from a Harvard Business Review article: “Most companies have it wrong. They don’t have to motivate their employees. They have to stop demotivating them.” It reminds me of a similar quote by the late management guru Peter Drucker, “So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”

Creating a more fun, inspiring and wildly successful workplace isn’t always about doing things. Sometimes it’s about not doing things. If you’re a leader, it’s about knowing when to get out of the way. It’s about freeing up people to shine and bigstock-Happy-Businessman-11445590do their best work. It’s about eliminating wasteful and downright annoying policies and procedures that treat people (including customers) like children and punish everyone because of the actions of one person.

I love Zappos (the Las Vegas based on-line shoe business) approach and overarching philosophy: If you hire the right people, train them properly, and foster an amazing culture, you don’t need a bunch of policies and rules. What’s Zappos approach if an employee does cross the line with the amount of freedom they are given? They have a conversation with that one individual! I’ve observed the same pattern in workplaces around the globe: the stronger the culture, the less need there is for micromanaging leaders, onerous policies, and outdated rules.

So as you continue building a rocking great workplace, look for opportunities to go on a policy diet. Challenge assumptions. Eliminate outdated rules. Form a “Sacred Cows Committee” to carve out the fatty beef.

Because more often than not, true inspiration happens when you just get out of the way.

Michael Kerr is an international Hall of Fame Business speaker.  Sign up his Humor at Work e-zine for great weekly ideas and inspiration at

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