Freedom: What a Powerful Word

Originally published July 4, 2017 by The Montrose Daily Press

Freedom — quite simply one of the greatest words ever written. Today as we celebrate the freedom of this country and the freedom of our spirits, I reflect. Freedom is such a precious gift, how might we celebrate its glory every day?

As business owners, managers, and leaders we inherently have immense influence on the freedoms our staff and customers experience. Much like your dog loves running in a wild open field, your child loves playing without boundaries, adults thrive in unrestricted environments. As I write this column, I am grateful for the creative freedom I’ve been afforded. I imagine if my writing or creative process were somehow restricted, the quality and certainly the motivation would be compromised.

Our workplaces are riddled with rules, policies, restrictions, and unspoken culture that choke the productivity and free spirits out of talented people. What’s worse, this environment filters down to our customers, placing their experiences inside a tight and controlled box.

On July 18th, the Chamber is hosting a business and leadership conference (buy tickets at www.montrosechamebr.com). Vince Kadulbek of Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is one of our featured speakers. I’ve heard Kadlubek speak previously and found his philosophy on customer experience quite impressive. Meow Wolf is an art collective where Kadlubek touts his philosophy on allowing the user to wonder about inside the space and choose their own adventure. There are no rules, no maps, no time restrictions, just freedom to experience Meow Wolf however you’d like. Kadlubek and staff have found this approach works like magic for customer retention and recommendation.

What freedoms are missing within the culture of your business?

Let’s start with training a new employee:

1. When a new staff member starts, try introducing them to the organization with very loose parameters of what their job will entail.

2. Assign projects and tasks by explaining what the ideal end result will look like; not by describing the process it will take to get there.

3. Allow them free range in discovering out how they will accomplish those tasks.

4. Encourage resourcefulness and creative thinking. Don’t hand them a job manual.

5. Make sure they know you are there as a resource and your workplace is a safe environment where their decisions will be supported.

(This process can also be implemented at any time with current staff.)

If you prescribe exactly how someone does their job and exactly what they should say, you might be missing out on a wealth of knowledge. When someone works out a task or project on their own by bringing their expertise into an organization, they uncover new ways of doing things, improve processes, and incrementally alter the organization. I’m not advocating for a 100% hands off system. Some jobs require an immense amount of instruction and attention to detail.

That being said, even the most meticulous and regulated industries can benefit from a different set of eyes. As long as the desired end result is accomplished, why control how they get there? Let people be free. We do best in a place where mistakes are seen as steps toward learning; we thrive where creativity is not only cultivated, but required.

These concepts will make both internal and external clients proud to be part of your organization. Put on your detective hat and look for red tape in your processes and culture. Creative a safe environment for your staff to share what holds them back. Ask them if they feel free in expressing themselves through their work. Ask them if they feel free in being themselves at work. If the answer is no, find out why.

Finally, look at yourself. Do you allow creativity in your own work? Do you let your true personality come out in the workplace? Do you bring all your talents to the table? Bringing our whole selves to any situation takes bravery. It takes risk and vulnerability. Leaders lead by example, and they sometimes have to lead from behind.

Dig deep. And let freedom ring.

Chelsea Rosty is the executive director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and director of Business Innovation for the City of Montrose. Reach her at chelsea@montrosechamber.com