Pre-Approve It!

In: BlogDate: Dec 30, 2011By: Henry Stewart

What is the key to creating a happy workplace?

I’ve just a written a book with what I see as the 10 key principles of a great workplace but for me one thing stands out.

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To find it, think about when you have been most strongly motivated and worked at your best. When I ask people what characterised those times it was rarely being well paid or even good communication from management. Nearly always it was a time when there was trust and the freedom to do the job the way you wanted.

What makes people unhappy is being micro-managed and lots of layers of approval which get in the way of getting things done. Great management is, for me, about getting out of the way and here’s a simple way to do that.

As a manager you will often task an individual or a group to solve a problem or come up with a new way of doing things and ask them to report back to you. Don’t ask for that. Instead approve the idea before they come up with it. Agree the guidelines, the budget, maybe who is affected and needs to be consulted but “pre-approve” the implementation.

Avoid being a barrier to innovation

I received an email from one of our freelance trainers thanking me for three changes which made it easier for her to do her job and help the customer. I was struck by two things. First, I didn’t know the changes had happened. They hadn’t come across my desk for approval. But second I realised that, if they had come across my desk, I would have rejected two of them. I thought up many of the methods we use and I, like many managers, am a natural barrier to changing them. I realised that to avoid blocking innovation, the best way was to make sure new ideas did not have to be approved by me.

This year we applied Pre-Approval to our website. It’s a pretty important part of the business and, in the past, I had always been actively involved. The result was that the Webmaster never fully owned the task and always felt the site could have been great if not for my changes. This time round we agreed the principles in advance but I only got to see the new site the night before it launched. And visitors tripled immediately.

What can you pre-approve today?

This blog was originally a guest post on the Delivering Happiness website.

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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he has built a company which has won multiple awards for some of the best customer service in the country and being one of the UK’s best places to work.

Henry was listed in the Guru Radar of the Thinkers 50 list of the most influential management thinkers in the world. "He is one of the thinkers who we believe will shape the future of business," explained list compiler Stuart Crainer.

His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

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