It all started with a little card; “Get Out Of Jail Free.”
We all want to live consequence free. Imagine a world where you could speak your mind, share your ideas and just be yourself. Can you imagine a workplace where everyone came to work to put in their full effort for the good of the company and not worried about their egos and livelihoods? Children often live in a consequence-free state, their imaginations are endless, and they are never afraid to share them. Eventually, the world forces them to conform to the norm, and that failure is never an option. When a failure is never an option, then the expectation that success is the only option is myopic.
Our CEO, Yves, gave us each Dovico employee a couple of these “Get Out of Jail Free” cards after attending a Robin Sharma event called the Titan Summit. Yves was looking for a solution to enable Dovico’s staff to innovate and come up with new ideas without the fear of failure. The premise behind the card is that each of us can use it at any time we feel that we need to be “bailed” out of a mistake, or have a free pass on an idea that benefits the company that is not a typical business decision. Like most workplaces, sometimes Dovico employees struggle with promoting ideas that go against the norm, we throw up barriers to protect ourselves from making mistakes and preventing ridicule. Of course, we don’t want to fail, so we don’t even give ourselves the chance to succeed! This little card allows us the freedom of pushing an idea to creation without the fear of the repercussions of failure.
With this little card in hand, I decided to bring one of my good friends in to job shadow me for a day. He has always had an interest in working with us at Dovico, and I thought that bringing him in for a day, showing him around, showing him my work would entice him to apply. It is somewhat of a risky move as I was introducing a stranger to our environment and showing him the inner workings of our software code. So, after my friend had left, I cashed in my “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Low and behold, it worked! My boss embraced my idea and I didn’t get into trouble. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the right fit for my friend to work here at that time, while my idea didn’t work on recruiting a new employee, it did, however, open up my audacity.
Since my first dip into Dovico criminality worked so well and my trust in making decisions for the company growing, I wondered how far I could push this thing. Of course, our “Get Out of Jail Free” card didn’t enable us to do anything that would be detrimental to our company or harm any of us. It isn’t a free pass to lie, cheat or steal. We couldn’t just leave for a month and then come back and expect a paycheck after cashing in the card. The premise is to come up with ideas and act on them for the company as a whole that is not self-serving. What I was about to do may push that boundary, but I trusted myself enough that what I was doing was for the betterment of Dovico and not solely for my gain.
I am an avid blogger. Writing has been a creative outlet for me and has helped me make sense of my world, my feelings and my relationships. There have been many times where a quickly written blog post has saved me from a day of mental anguish. I am a survivor from childhood sexual abuse and being able to share my experiences has opened up a whole new world for me, but on my road to healing, I have had far too many questions that needed answering, and I found those answers by writing. Somewhere along my journey, I had found a passion for writing from the heart. It makes it real to me and in turn, real to my reader. So, I decided, it was time to write a book about my healing journey.
Like most young family lives, I lead a hectic lifestyle. I work every day, and I have a 10-year-old who is involved in sports that occupy a lot of our family’s spare time. I also have a second job as a fitness trainer. I am an active participant in maintaining a healthy and happy home. I get up at 5:30 AM everyday day to read and I am in bed most nights by 10 PM. I don’t have many other hobbies other than personal development. My time is insufficient. How could I possibly fit in writing a book? I decided that the only time I could find to write a book would be at work. SAY WHAT?
I am a report writer at Dovico, not a book writer. To write a book during office hours would be a risky move, but one I was willing to take. It is not my plan to become a world-famous writer; it is not my plan to make a living from this book, it is merely a way to inspire others and cultivate my creativity by sharing my story and in turn, help the world be a better place. To reduce any impact on our clients and my workload, I came to work every day an hour early. I was often the first one in the office every morning and to be honest I enjoyed the solitude, and the moment that I arrived in the office, I got busy writing, emptying out my head of all the ideas surrounding the book. By the time most of my co-workers were in the office, I was done writing for the day. After a few of these early morning writing sessions, I noticed that I was much more alert for my normal daytime workload. I was ready and fresh to tackle the technical work that was ahead of me. Instead of stewing on a chapter of my book all day, I was able to get it done before I even started. I was relieved to have my book writing done before I started my work day and this worked well for me. Within six weeks, I had my book completed.
I didn’t want to be sneaky, or dishonest about what extracurricular work that I had been spending company time on, so I knew I would have to confess eventually. I had to tell my boss that I had written my entire book in the office. I took some courage and a little nerve to admit to something like that. I had nothing to be ashamed of, I acted in good faith, and besides, it turned out to be an excellent exercise in becoming a very productive employee. I was able to remove a lot of negative energy from my mind.
The week that I had disclosed to the CEO of the company that I wrote my book on company time, he had received an email from a happy client of ours. The client was letting him know how pleased he was with the work and effort that I put into resolving their issue. When I had heard that I got that recognition, I knew that I was on to something. Writing frees my mind to do other things, and this is legitimate proof of that. So, I decided I would cash in my “Get Out of Jail Free” card and tell Yves, our CEO, what I had done.
I walked into his office and tossed my card onto his desk, “I have something to tell you! I completed my first book!” I told him. “Oh great!” he happily replied. “I wrote it completely on company time! And here is my Get Out of Jail Free card to bail me out!” I replied. At first, he was confused. He smiled and chuckled, and I could tell he was at a loss for words. I let him know that I did come in a little earlier in the day, but there were times when I was stumped on a real work problem, and the only way to get out of it was to take a 15-minute break and work on my book. He instantly became curious as to what this all meant.
As we discussed the process of writing the book, it became apparent that I was not going to get fired. Yves understood that my purpose was not to write this book for personal gain or profit. He knew it was not my intention to use company resources for my agenda or running my own side business. This book was a work of heart, a project meant to free me to be a better employee. Instead of rushing out for a cigarette break, or a coffee break, I was taking a writing break. When my mind is free from the thoughts that keep me from being present, I become more efficient. I brought more meaning to my time at Dovico, and I inherit ownership over my workload.
The moral of this story is when an employee is given trust to create, innovate and inspire without sanctions, their best work always comes forward. They must be allowed the freedom to make mistakes, fumble and take on risk, even if the work is not a part of the employee’s job description. An employee should never be shackled to the cell of a defined role, for they will only grow big enough as the bars and walls allow. The most celebrated works of our lifetime were the result of someone taking a real risk and not caring about failure. How can a company innovate if the parameters of innovation begin and end with the threat of being fired? I could have been fired that day or thrown in “jail,” but I wasn’t. And now, I know that I am safe to have all the space I need to dream big for the company that doesn’t put me in jail.
It sure is fantastic working, consequence-free!
by Jeff Nagle,
Ones and zeros make the software; they don’t make the company or the customer experience. Dovico is confidence, knowledge, and service. For 25 years, we have been helping thousands of customers around the world to deliver successful projects with Dovico Timesheet, a proven project time and cost-saving software. www.dovico.com
Also published on Medium.