A couple of days ago I was on a biz trip. After finishing my meetings for the day, I headed to a local fast food-ish Mexican restaurant. This was the type of place where they build your salad or burrito right in front of you. I got to the end of the line and I asked the cashier if I could have a larger side of Guacamole (the small plastic container just wasn’t going to do it).

Do you have a larger container for extra Guacamole, I asked.

Um…., came the reply. Then, silence.

A wave of panic came over the cashier. The problem wasn’t that she didn’t have a larger container. She did.The problem wasn’t that she was shocked by my gluttonous request. She wasn’t. The problem was that she had no idea how to charge me for a larger side of Guacamole. It wasn’t on the menu and it wasn’t on the screen of her register. A different price didn’t exist (fade in scary horror music).

Just charge me whatever extra you need to, I replied- trying to help out.

That didn’t help. Apparently, there isn’t a "whatever you need to" button on her screen either.

We looked at each other. She wishing I would have never put her in this position and me thinking, this is isn’t your fault, it’s your leader/manager’s fault.

The Point: If you don’t encourage and foster creativity and "out of the cash register thinking," you won’t get it.

I’ve been in this type of moment dozens of times. A person has been trained to follow the rules. Boring. A person has been trained to work within the buttons of the screen which, I know, is necessary;  but  it’s also limiting.  

Leaders and managers have a responsibility to ensure that work processes and rules are followed. I get it. But, they also have a responsibility to teach creative solution making. There’s always going to be the weirdo who wants more Guacamole. In fact, that’s really not that weird, really. If leaders want people who can adapt and pull great customer service out of thin air, then that’s what they need to model and develop in their employees.

By the way, the Guacamole was great.