As the VP of Human Resources, Training, and Development of a growing hospitality company, I had the following hanging on my wall:
"Human resources requires a delicate balance of law, business, and humanity so we must learn to live comfortably in the gray."
I believe it is one of the most brilliant sentences ever written, not only about HR, but of leadership in general.
I still see far too many people who live solely in a black and white world. Let me say upfront that of course there are times when black and white is the way to go. My quick rule of thumb when I delivered Colleague orientation was: be safe, be ethical, and be legal. Beyond that, it's all up for grabs if you are a leader who is truly committed to growing your workforce into empowered individuals; ones who are able to use good judgement and think on their feet.
I once witnessed the most soul-crushing exchange. An employee who was trying her creative wings proudly showed her boss a new idea. She had used some company resources to create it -- we're talking under $10. Rather than praising the employee for her creative initiative and coaching her towards a outcome they could agree upon, this boss (not a leader on that day) reprimanded her for not following directions and insisted she repay the company for the materials used.
What are the odds that this employee will stay safely within the bounds of the stated rules and regs from now on? What are the odds that this boss will complain that the employee is not developing?
High on both counts.
When we remove our employees' ability to think on their own, ultimately our guests and our clients suffer. Regardless if we are black-and-white, or gray... I think we can all agree that no one wants to hear, "I have to ask my manager."
Consider your ability to live in the gray. If you don't have a high "gray tolerance" then I would encourage you to start slowly to loosen your grip on black-and-white. Start with low risk decisions and work your way towards surrender. Yep, I said surrender.
If you treat your employees like children, you will be parenting them every day. If you treat your employees like professionals, your life and the quality of the product you deliver gets exponentially better. Every day.