TBS.04.21.16These days there are tons of companies that say they want their people to be more engaged, but are they giving them permission to do so? Yes, permission! It’s subtle, but powerful.

Permission is a powerful idea in determining company culture. Are you giving your people permission to be creative, make decisions, solve problems, and take responsibility? Or, in the name of efficiency, structure, or compliance, are you preventing the very type of support you need?

Here are some ways to give your people permission:

Compensation. Some part of employees’ compensation should be based on sales, growth, and productivity. It will take some time to identify and agree upon metrics used to measure those key indicators, but get started now and tweak it every year until it’s right. If you offer a bonus, make it quarterly. A year is too long for them to remember, or if after a poor first half of the year, they may just give up. Quarterly is short enough to remember, and if they have a bad quarter, well, there’s a new opportunity next quarter.

Knowledge. Your staff can’t help you if you don’t tell them what you need. Many businesses believe in the “need-to-know” policy which keeps employees in the dark. We believe in the “know-the-need” policy which includes them in the company’s challenges, opportunities and triumphs. They already have your corporate knowledge and a stake in solving your problems, especially if they share in your success. We suggest quarterly meetings with sales and sales support staff (i.e., everybody not in sales) to brainstorm solutions. They will surprise you with their great ideas! 

Access. Clear the channels of communication. Don’t force interdepartmental messages go through a complex pyramid structure, and back to the department right next door. Don’t lock down creativity by allowing compliance to use fear to demand that everything goes through them. Their extensive turnaround time itself can discourage many good ideas from ever surfacing. Give your people ways to access top management directly to prevent middle managers from stopping good ideas.

Acknowledgement. Thank each of your people publically for all the good ideas they’ve produced to improve your company. This validation will make them want to do more. Their teammates will see your acknowledgement, and want some for themselves. We recommend once a year, on their anniversary, send the entire staff a memo that summarizes what that staff member did during the past year that improved the company, resulting in bigger bonuses for the whole staff. This will give everyone more respect for their teammate’s contribution and improve overall teamwork.

Mistakes. Give your people permission to experiment and make mistakes – as long as they make mistakes in a productive manner. This means that they come to you with the mistake they made and a list of documents that need to be created, altered or improved, so the mistake is less likely to reoccur. Companies that frown on mistakes force their people to hide them and the opportunity to improve the company’s policies and procedures is lost. Encourage your people to aim not blame. Aim at what they can do to prevent a reoccurrence, and don’t disempower themselves by blaming others.

Your people are looking for the limits you will allow. Some are very obvious and necessary like dependability, production and civil behavior. Beyond that, show your “personal settings” by giving them the permissions we have discussed here. The message will soon become crystal clear and they will operate within those limits. Don’t let your structure and procedures deny your people the permission they need to help you!




Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.