You know by now that I’m an obsessed woman. I don’t hide it very well. I care deeply about two things, people and ideas – Communication and creativity. I believe that you can’t separate the two. You have to have the first if you want the other. People have to feel respected, safe, appreciated, and liked to be at their best. We thrive in the right environment – one where we are encouraged to work to our strengths and appreciated for being us.

Is your workplace creating that environment for you? It isn’t the easiest thing to do. The easiest thing for a company to do is work out a way to do things and then create a set of rules for everyone to follow. It works (for a while) but the best that you get from that is a group of people following rules and some other people making sure they do so. I’m not saying get rid of all the rules, they are often there for a purpose such as health and safety, industry specific guidelines, and complying with the law. Those rules are essential. It’s the other rules I would question. The unwritten ones, the one’s that say “We do this like this because we have always done it like that”, – those need questioning every now and then. These procedures may be cornerstones of your company, they may be important traditions in your workplace or they may be done that way because Jack (who left 20 years ago) said that’s how they were done.

Business has changed, not just in the way that you hear, not just because of technology but because people have less separation between their lives and work. We want to feel like our work is worthwhile, part of our life plan, not just something we do between certain hours to make some money. We want our quality of life to happen in the workplace as well as out of it. We want to matter, to make a difference, and feel as though we are contributing to something bigger, more important than we could be alone.

It’s the people who do the things in your office, store, or whatever building you work in, or out of, that have opinions on how they should be done. They know where their frustrations lie, and probably have a good idea how to solve them. They know how to save you money, and how to give better customer service. You should ask them.

If you create an environment where people feel free to communicate then they will question things. They might not just keep their heads down and obey the rules, just because they are the rules. They may speak up and save you money, increase your profits and help your customers. They may hold each other to a higher standard.

If this happens, you’ll know you are doing it right.

(This column was written by Aileen Bennett and first published in The Daily Advertiser on Tuesday 22nd May 2012, all rights reserved)