I remember many years ago when I started at a new company as the head of the office, I saw a small little table just outside my office with something that looked like a roster on it.  I was immediately curious.  A saw the same roster-type journal in random places in the office.

I would later come to learn that each manager has one of these rosters.  A closer look revealed a “smoking check-in/check-out” roster.  Oh my gosh!  It was the first time in my life that I saw something like that.  I mean, I know managers were checking up on people that regularly go out for a smoke break, but having a sign-out/sign-in roster everytime you take a smoke break, was something completely new to me.

You see, I don’t smoke.  I’ve never smoked.  So I never had the need to take a smoke break.  But I know about all the complaints from the non-smokers. “Smokers are lazy, they hang around outside all the time.  They do nothing”.

So upon further investigation of this check-out/check-in smoke roster, I was told that you have to enter the time you leave the office and clock back in again when upon return.  The manager would then reconcile the time individuals have spent away from their desk to determine whether they need to work additional hours or not.

Ok, so here’s the deal.  I can go and sit on the loo for 15 minutes and watch YouTube videos.  Nobody will ever wink. In fact, I can take my coffee, go and sit on the loo for 30 minutes, catch-up on an episode of one of my favorite series, and nobody will ask any questions.  But if you go out and smoke, you only have 15 min per day.

Something didn’t make sense.  First of all, I hate policing people. It means, I need to create a custom piece of paper, where you can sign in and out.  I need to review it once a month – which will probably take me a few hours – to check for any irregularities in your working hours. Why?  Why do I have to sacrifice my productivity to check what you’re doing? I honestly don’t care what you’re doing.

I don’t care if you smoke one cigarette or an entire packet a day.  I only care if you are doing your work.  I only care if you are giving me the output within the timeframe we’ve agreed upon.

So yep! THAT’S ME!  I’m the one who threw those stupid rosters in the shredder.

When you police people, you force them into laborious procedures.  You create a team who’s helpless and unable to make their own decisions.  And then what happens?  You’re the one constantly putting out fires on their projects, rather than focussing on the tasks that only you can perform.

Come summer holidays, they are the ones galloping on the beach while you’re doing all their work for them.  Because you created a team who cannot think forward, who cannot plan and who doesn’t care – they just want to get away from you and your bossy attitude.

So next time you want to put a process in place that controls something people do, think again.  Think about why you’re doing it.  Is it because one person doesn’t honor the working hours.  Then you address it with only the one person, not the entire team.  Is it because of your own insecurities as a manager, then you address those insecurities and work on it.  It’s not your team’s problem to deal with, neither should they carry the consequences for that.

While everything is winding down in South Africa and people are ready to take leave, start to think about the things you would like to change next year.  Make it an awesome year for yourself.  But better yet, make it an awesome year for your employees.  People will always forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

Talk soon,