Ray: In the book The Answer to How Is Yes, you recommend confronting people with their freedom. What does this idea mean? Let’s talk about it in a business context, as an example, even though it has obvious relevance to our personal lives, too.
Peter: Business owners confront people with their freedom by giving people choice, by not making promises of caretaking they can’t deliver on, and by having adult-to-adult or partner-to-partner conversations. All the things I am talking about are intended to create a culture of accountability by treating employees as if they are capable of acting as equals, even though an employee may be 18 years old and never have had a job before.
It also means if your employees treat you as a parent, you say no. If employees want you to take care of them, and they complain, “I’m sorry, I just couldn’t get here on time,” you say, “That’s not good enough. I need someone who is going to show up. You have to be here a half-hour before the store opens, and that’s it. If you don’t want to do that, then you don’t have a job here.”
When we control people, we think we have to take care of them in a thousand ways. But when you confront people with their freedom, you stop colluding with people in their sense of entitlement. When people say, “What’s in it for me?” you say, “I don’t know. The answer to that question is something you have to figure out.”
If an employee or coworker is depressed every day, it is not a problem you have to solve. All you have to do is say, “Hey, look. Your despair is affecting all of us. Cheer up!”
What do you say to your partner if your partner is moody and pouty? You say, “Stop being so moody and pouty.” That’s a great conversation to have. The person may still be moody and pouty, but now you can get on with your day.
*Learn more about Peter Block and his work on organizations, community, and civic engagement at PeterBlock.com, and read more of my interviews at Hemachandra.com. This interview was conducted for New Age Retailer magazine.