One day, lady luck took the day off, and the highway patrol stopped me on a stretch of asphalt out in Idaho. Yes, unluckily for me, I was in possession of more than what is normally allowed for personal use. Only just, but it was enough. My defense? “It’s just a stage I’m going through, sir. I’ll get my act sorted.” The court’s reply? “2 years.”
And I did. Eventually. Some 12 years later, now you’ll find me running a successful digital marketing agency back in my home city of Medellin, Colombia. Those memories of jail time are firmly in the past. Well, most of it is. One of the things I do remember is this:
I learned my best leadership skills in prison.
Basically, and excuse my French, when you find yourself in the joint, there’s simply no room to fuck up – you either fly straight, my friend, or you’re instantly chin-checked. Or worse. Prison is all about rules – theirs and ours. You need to understand quickly how best to get along.
Much of my “education” there applies to life and how you wish to live it.
All of it applies to business and how you wish to run it.
So, that’s what I wish to impart to you – the hard lessons learned, how they have stood me in good stead ever since, how they drive you to simply enjoy your day, and how they adapt so perfectly into making your business an awesome place for your employees to work in.
Note: The use of armed guards is purely optional, but I’d try and avoid their deployment if you can. Kind of defeats the purpose.
Apply everything you’re about to learn about making your workplace the place to be by adopting these 5 mind-changing ways, and you’ll be rewarded with employees who:
● Work better
● Get it done quicker, and
● Wish to work for you their entire careers
So here’s how.
When you’ve sat for endless hours looking at the same four stone walls, you get to learn to appreciate a better environment. Put your staff in an identical workstation cubicle each, for example, and that same feeling of tedium (and an inability to change it) is the resulting mood. And no-one, absolutely no-one, does their best work in a place they’d rather see the back of. To cap it all, it’s just no fun. Period.
Let your staff know that, as the one in charge, you’ve put great thought into their workplace workspace. Demonstrate this in practical terms, ie. how you have set that personal area up and how cool and inspired it is, so they understand this is your mindset for everything that affects an employee on a daily basis.
Don’t just use your imagination – let it run wild. Make it serious fun. And always listen to any suggestions your people might have for improving their workspace area (and always act on the good ones too).
Related Post: Office Space: What does the ideal workplace look like?
For a long, long time, business culture has dictated it is the client that is No. 1, and that they should get their needs met first. Everything was done to keep those people happy.
Fortunately, however, businesses have started to get savvy to the concept that they should be 100% employee-focused in approach, and their culture should reflect that as much as possible. In short, put your people first, and the clients will automatically get taken care of.
The prison analogy? Look after the people who are always looking after you.
We are what we are, and ain’t that the truth. However, in business, we all too often think leadership is about being in complete control, expecting 100% loyalty, and generally ordering your staff to get stuff done when you need to.
Respect doesn’t work like that, and it certainly isn’t earned like that, whether you’re in a Fortune 500 or the state penitentiary. You may get your employees to work for you just because you’re domineering, you act in a powerful manner, and you pay them on time at the end of every month, but it sure doesn’t breed respect. You learn a truckload about earning respect in jail, that’s for certain.
Demonstrate who you truly are – your creativity, emotion, empathy, even vulnerability, during each and every working day, and those staff of yours will be more than happy to respect you for who you are. Engage the right-side of your brain – that’s where all the human stuff is. They’ll do their work with a smile on their faces too.
Related Post: 3 Rules to follow that will make you a successful leader
Lead – Do Not, I Repeat, Do Not “Manage”….
Nobody likes a manager. Not really. Nobody wants to be led from Point A to Point B like they couldn’t work out the direction for themselves. Prison teaches you this. Plain following orders is a whole punishment in itself.
What employees much prefer is actual empowerment, where they plan how best to get where the business needs to be in the area that they are responsible for. It makes for a much happier and more satisfied workplace too. Show your employee you have their trust, and they will repay it in great ways you hadn’t even thought of.
As social animals, we like to show others it’s good to be around them. We also like to show them it’s good to be around us too. Prison life and what you make of it depends very much on how you build relationships with people. So, we show gratitude. In most prison-related cases, it’s a nod of the head, or a good word, said and meant. It’s always gratefully received.
As leaders, we can display gratitude in a number of ways, and I’m not just talking about an end-of-year bonus either. In fact, do your homework and you’ll find the main motivators for staff are more responsibility, personal recognition and a sense of worth.
Just how you achieve this is your decision. Personally, I’d look at the following:
● Career Maps: Every member of your staff should have a career map, discussed and agreed jointly between you. Reviewed regularly, it’s an organic thing, and it’s as important as a contract.
● Corporate Gifts: Rewarding your employees in a more obviously material way can come in the form of personalized corporate gifts. You can even have a mini-presentation in front of colleagues. How fun and/or personal you wish the gift to be is your choice. Ask their colleagues what floats their boat if you don’t know.
● Flexibility: You have your life outside of work. So do your employees. Respect theirs by being as flexible as you can possibly be if the need arises.
● Company – Wide Recognition (and Beyond): If an employee has performed above and beyond, proclaim it publically through the work network, even put something on your company website for the whole world to see. Let your clients know what you appreciate about your staff.
Bring Your Workplace To Life
So there you have it, dear reader. A few (hopefully) wise words of wisdom, in the guise of 5 mind-changing ways to an awesome place to work, learned in a somewhat different environment to wherever you put your daily grind in. I’m guessing that’s the case, anyway. As you can see, the actual environment only is one part of it – how you bring that place to life is all the rest.
Remember, environment, culture, leadership style, lead – don’t manage, and gratitude. Focus on getting these right, and you’ll have a workplace that is not only awesome, it’s the envy of other businesses.
How do you or would you create a fun, awesome workplace? If you have any ideas along these lines that you’d like to share, please, drop us a comment below. Much appreciated. As is freedom. Never take that for granted. Just make sure you share it around.
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About the author: Andrew Macia
Hi, my name is Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but raised in Los Angeles, California. I’m an active entrepreneur and marketing specialist, with my own successful digital marketing agency for a global client list based in Medellín, Colombia.