One of my friends loves dragging me with her whenever she goes to buy a new abaya not only because I have the patience to haggle, but also because my being there has resulted in her receiving her first properly fitting abayas in a long time.
It all started when I first accompanied her to a boutique to try on one of the ready-made designs on display. My friend stepped out of the fitting room wearing an abaya that looked like it was made for someone twice her size. The tailor made my friend stand facing three mirrors and his assistant stood behind her awaiting instructions from her boss and me.
The assistant started pinning the abaya and marking the garment for alterations. After she finished, she stepped back and the tailor and her both looked at me. I pointed to the shoulder and the sleeves width and shook my head no. The assistant made further marks to tighten the sleeve. She looked up at me and I shook my head no. I could see that my friend was losing patience.
The tailor and his assistant then both suggested that the fitting would be better if we tightened the abaya from the top. Bingo. The fitting process and discussion took almost an hour, but I left content knowing that my friend would look awesome in her abaya and would not have to go back and forth to the tailor to fit it properly as she had done before.
For my friend, the experience was long and boring, and she was relieved the minute we stepped out of the boutique. In the car she asked me why had I not just grabbed the pins and chalk and shown the tailor exactly what to do instead of wasting all that time.
With my experience in dealing with numerous tailors for my small fashion line, I told her that if I had done as she suggested then I would be solely blamed for the outcome had the abaya turned out to be bad, because they would say that they had done as I said. Instead, if I tell them what the desired end result is, and they had to achieve it, then they would be responsible for the outcome. Plus they will do a better job because they had a say in it.
This lesson that I learnt from my fashion experience stayed with me, and I often use it when I deal with different suppliers in the office or for my small business.
The office is no different. When I first started at work, I remember having to deal with graphic designers to lay out a monthly publication. At first, I used to send them a lengthy email every month detailing how every page should look, where the tables and figures should go. I often got the result exactly the way I wanted, leaving no room for their creativity, and if there was a mistake in the design then I was to blame, because I was the only one with a say in it.
And so I tried a different approach, where I gave the professionals autonomy and trusted their skills. The end result was less stressful for me, and almost error-free when it came to design and layout.
Unfortunately many managers and leaders do not provide room for their employees to be creative. They sometimes forget that their subordinates are professionals who want to save time and achieve their goals as error-free and swiftly as possible.
Ever notice that you were more excited to work on an assignment when your teacher gave you a general guideline instead of a detailed one and you had the choice of topic and presentation? Perhaps you even scored higher on that one.
Dealing with businesses and employees is no different than the classroom. Describing the end outcome and then letting the skilled professionals get to it in their own way result in remarkable outcomes. No worry is needed. If they did not understand what the manager meant, they will ask.
But if the supervisors just provide the employees with insight on the company's direction and mission, and then gives them space to achieve it, they might be surprised at their employees creative and innovative ways, especially when it comes to sales and marketing.
They would be surprised at what a little autonomy could result in.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and fashion designer based in Abu Dhabi