Steve Jobs is quoted as saying: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

When you hire smart people, solutions are produced faster, efficiencies are found and acted upon, teams support each other, and most importantly…your employees will go the extra inch, yard and mile for the good of the company!!!

The easy answer is: when your smart people ask to lead, or come up with creative solutions, or want reasonable perks – listen!

I had a client who wanted to adjust her schedule within a very large financial company. She wanted to work from home two days a week, and we crafted her approach. She knew what she wanted. She was prepared to leave her job if the company could not honor her work/life balance request.

She made her case: Denise had a large group of happy customers that she knew well and assisted regularly. Her customers and her revenue generation were steadily growing. She had been with the company for over 6 years. They knew her work ethic and trusted her capabilities.

Denise also had two young children with a busy school schedule, and a partner that traveled. She wanted, needed, to reduce the rushing and driving around in order to create a more balanced life.

They said “no”.

All employees were required to be available at their desks from 9 to 5, five days a week and allowing this would look like favoritism.  They gave her a raise, they offered her a promotion (with a new title, too) and Denise was so flattered she accepted, and decided to stay. But something didn’t feel right.

After 6 months of struggling to stay engaged in her new role, she realized she was exhausted and unhappy. She was devoting most of her energy to her workplace, and getting ready for work every morning began to make her stomach tight and her breath short. She felt farther from her family than ever, and her exercise and healthy eating routines were down the drain. Again, she decided to quit.

They offered her a 5-figure reward to stay for one more year. At this point, Denise felt like she should begin negotiating this bonus amount when she realized her company just wasn’t listening or supporting her as a person.

Quite the contrary. They were throwing money at her as a resource that generated revenue for them, and she was good at it!  But she wasn’t feeling valued and they had just demonstrated they didn’t really care about her well-being. The only one happy was her company.

Because she was good at her job, she knew she could do this for any company – and maybe even from home a few days a week – so Denise let the bonus go, and she left.

I can hear the groans!

“Then everyone is going to want to work from home!”

“We can’t start letting our employees run the show!”

“Suck it up!”

But think about it, 80-90% of her work was on the computer or phone, and if her company honored her first reasonable request to work from home, they would have gained an extremely loyal and engaged employee who had every intention of bringing in more wealth and growth to the company for years to come.

Instead they played a short-sited game based on fear and control.

MIT professor Sandy Pentland, after collecting 1,000s of data points, found that “engagement was the central predictor of productivity, exceeding individual intelligence, personality, and skill. Teams with the highest levels of engagement had much higher levels of creative output.”

I’ve read that engaged employees will generate 47% more revenue than employees that are not engaged with their company.  So many studies show that when a company proves to their people that they are, in fact, the most valuable assets they have, they work happier and more conscientiously.

As the economy picks up, recruiters are contacting your employees for companies that want to embrace this valuable resource. They contacted Denise. Employees are also looking around to be sure they are on par with colleagues in their field. Now she has a raise, a great team, and a home office for three days of the week.
So, how does your company value its people? Look around. Think about it.  I like what the iconic company Apple said so many years ago, “Think different.”

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