Nordstrom's one and only rule
Q: How can a senior leader encourage junior leaders to act and make decisions when they find themselves without specific guidance? How can a junior leader know when it's right to take charge?
I think it's a matter of values-in-action. If a junior leader -- or any employee -- is taught to act in the service and within the boundaries of organizational values, then on-the-spot decisions are more easily made.
I've always loved the example of the one-page Employee Handbook that Nordstrom, the Seattle-based retailer, gives its employees. By now, most business leaders are familiar with the handbook, but maybe they haven't viewed it as a guideline for decision-making: "Welcome to Nordstrom. We're glad to have you with our company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them. So our employee handbook is very simple. We have one rule: Use good judgment in all situations."
Can you think of a more potent prescription for chaos than inviting everyone in an organization to rely solely on good judgment -- particularly their own interpretation of good judgment -- when making decisions? Yet Nordstrom's work force does not disintegrate into thousands of employees "doing their own thing." Nordstrom's secret lies in stressing its primary corporate value -- outstanding customer service -- and then liberating employees' sense of responsibility in service to that value.
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