One of the biggest challenges working with employees? Employee mindset. Avoiding risk, not acting as if your name is on the line, short term thinking, and being more concerned with not being wrong than the right decision. Easier said than done, and I’m just as guilty.


Whether in my own workplace or as a customer of other companies, I’ve seen a broad spectrum. I remember meeting a potential client who was a mortgage broker with Fifth Third Bank – he was so entrepreneurial it took me the first half of the meeting to wrap my head around how he worked in such a corporate environment for a big bank. Turns out he ended up leaving shortly thereafter for a smaller bank with more room to experiment. And at the other end, I’ve seen employees so paralyzed by the rules, the process and what the boss may think that they destroy customer relationships or forever box themselves in to entry level jobs. Or account managers who don’t do what’s right for a client in the moment and present their decision later, but instead they wait and wait and wait for approval while a customer dies on the vine.

So what to do about it? Every organization needs process and standardization. But there’s a few things we can do to try to free up employees to think like owners:

  1. Use language of ownership and personal responsibility
  2. Allow employees to make their own decisions without approval. i.e. If the decision involves less than $100, do what you think is right to take care of the customer.
  3. Edify employees who make strategic decisions, even if some are wrong.
  4. Minimize ‘Yes men.’ In group discussions, make sure leaders are last to speak. If they’re first, everyone simply echoes their thoughts.
  5. Let go! Your front line employees know the day to day business better than most removed managers. Give them some breathing room and autonomy.


It’s all easier said than done. And most the time, our brains are programmed to follow the crowd, follow the rules, and follow the other employees. But to be innovative, scalable and nimble –  employee mindset is a major setback.


Thoughts? Have you experience crippling employee mindset as a customer? Or been part of a great organization where you’re free to make some of your own decisions? Comment below, unless your boss might read it….


2 thoughts on “#employeeproblems

  1. Brittany Montague

    Pat, I love this blog! As a manager of a small company, I am constantly trying to find competent employees. I support every decision they make even if they’re wrong in order to empower the entire team. I find that delegation is key and micromanagement is exhausting. Now if only I could prevent the constant turnover of retail!

  2. Joel Merlin

    Good points, all. As someone who is apart of a team working as ambassadors to change the current state of our sales culture (overall culture as well), some of what you point out is spot on to what we are trying to evangelize. Empowering the “big idea” in each of our team members, effective or not, has done great things to push the envelope of creativity, bigger asks, more wins, and confidence.

    It’s the conformity to fit in that I see as the biggest opportunity in your points. Meaning if the culture can be changed to foster what you suggest, then anyone coming aboard will naturally (and hopefully) aspire to those best practices.

    It all starts with the leaders taking this approach. We, are seeing small wins everywhere in the behavior. As tough as it may have once seemed.

    Thanks for the thought.


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