• Responsibility shows respect, develops skill and ability, while building a sense of belonging in the organisation.

  • Look for real-time opportunities that will challenge and excite people. Learning through experience is highly effective and also brings new ‘out of the box' thinking into the work.

  • Trust is a prerequisite, since mistakes are inevitable and necessary for growth. Redefine success as the agreed outcome, as an alternative and better outcome, or as information that takes us to a better out- come. Optimise mistakes by understanding and learning from what happened.

  • Ensure regular appraisals: once a year is not enough.

  • See yourself as servant to your team - your job is to build an environment in which they can do their best work.

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Give plenty of permission

Keep listening for new ideas. When you hear one, set your boundaries and let the instigators explore them further. Work on the basis of ‘education, not blame', and watch people and the company grow.

Shortly after Richard arrived at Hiscox they opened regional offices. ‘I know from my previous work that offices just don't talk to each other, so I suggested we install video- conferencing facilities.' The norm in London is to have regular meetings attended by everyone on site to update on company issues. Regional offices could so easily get left out of the loop and have no chance to ask questions. Not everyone was keen on the idea, but Richard told them, ‘Trust me, you need to get their buy-in. It's not as good as being in the room, but better than nothing.'

He was sent off to investigate and produce a paper with costs, availability, etc. In due course he presented it to the relevant people and the idea was taken up. In fact, it has recently been upgraded. Now it helps in all sorts of ways. For example, reviewing new risks used to be done in individual offices, but now the company can put together a combination of underwriting minds at the regular monthly meeting.

This is not unusual at Hiscox, who embed the concept of supported challenge from the moment a new colleague arrives. When Sue Langley took up her job as Group operations director, she met with Bronek Masojada, Group CEO, to find out about her objectives, goals, timelines, and so on. He told her she had just one objective - ‘to sort it out. Let me know what you decide is right and I will back you.' He also made a point of telling the board the same thing, so that everyone knew he was behind her and trusted her judgement. It confirmed her experience at interview that here was a place where she would be shown respect and valued for what she had to bring. A number of years later she has created vast change in the systems and is part of a highly effective leadership team, for whom she has great admiration.

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Action steps

  • Listen thoroughly to ideas from colleagues. Being on the front line, they will see issues that you cannot.

  • People live up to expectations. If you trust and encourage people to follow through on ideas, they are more likely to succeed. Watch their every move and you will lose the people or, at the very least, the ideas.

  • Demonstrate your intention by informing others. Everyone knows where they stand and you will affirm your belief in the person concerned.

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Everyone makes mistakes

Mistakes are inevitable so it is best to expect them. It is also the best way of learning - you can guarantee the antennae will be highly sensitised another time! A colleague's first mistake is the critical one: how you respond as a manager will affect how willing the colleague is to take any risk in the future.

Andrew made his first mistake at Wragge after four months. Putting in the bills for completion of a deal, he found his calculation differed from what the client was expecting by £50,000. All he could think was that he had made a mistake in terminology, between what was said and what was written.

I could feel the blood draining from my face. I went straight to the partner concerned, who realised something was wrong from one look at me. Mark was great. He worked through it with me, dropping everything to give me the support I needed. He reassured me that I should not be concerned about negligence claims - that far worse than this could happen.

Five years on, Andrew still recalls the horror of realising what he had done. But the positive response from his partner means that he has been able to work on without constantly watching his back. Like the blue-chip CEO who chose not to sack a colleague who lost a large sum of money:‘Why would I sack you? I've just spent £500,000 training you!' Andrew is probably the very best person to work on clarifying contracts - he knows exactly what to look for.

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Action steps

  • Do not expect to be exempt - everyone makes mistakes, even you. Value them for the learning they bring.

  • Be prepared to give time to people who know they have made a mis- take. Not only do they need to understand what has happened, they will feel wretched and need your support. No one makes a mistake on purpose, so be understanding.

  • If exactly the same thing happens again, investigate fully to see what has happened and work out a development plan for moving forward.

  • If it happens for a third time, take appropriate action.

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Being a role model

Leaders and managers have a responsibility to provide a positive role model in the workplace. Do not expect people to do as you say if you do not do it yourself.

At Bromford, leaders make a point of working and playing alongside colleagues regularly - whether in the workplace, on social occasions, or at charity events. Not only does this provide time to talk in a more informal way, it also indicates respect and a desire to understand life from another person's perspective.

As a manager you have a responsibility to your people. You must make an effort to build a relationship and be approachable - how else will you get to hear of great ideas or mistakes as they occur? By staying on at the annual Bromford Bash longer than he would normally have done, Nick realised how important it is to be seen outside of the business.

It's connecting not just as colleagues but as people. To begin with I wasn't that good at it. I was not prepared to spend a few minutes more to have a chat.

It was his own personal development work that persuaded Nick to explore this area more.

I took more of a personal look at how I was operating and what I wanted to get out of work. My work/life balance was poor. I was very task- oriented. I thought that others working long hours was good - I was out of balance. It was about sorting out my life priorities.

What he realised was that as long as he modelled such a driven lifestyle, no one else could have a balanced work and home life. They lived life like the leader - this was the way to get attention and respect.

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Action steps

  • Take responsibility for your own behaviour and effectiveness as a manager. As a role model you will have a major impact on the running of the business - so make sure you are a good one.

  • Build relationships with your people and create an environment of trust so they can be honest at all times. This is the only way to guarantee that you hear what you need to hear.

  • Keeping working on your own personal development. Not only will this ensure that you are working to full potential, it will demonstrate the importance of learning to everyone around you.

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Encouraging feedback

Everyone in your business has knowledge that can help you move forward. Unless you make it clear that you want to hear, you will miss out on numerous ideas and solutions.

In the first week of his graduate placement in Honda, Gavin and his colleagues met with Ken Keir, the MD. ‘You are not yet touched by Honda, so you are the closest we have here to a customer. Talk to us about your impressions.' Quite a challenge to a young man new to a job and itching to make a good impression - how honest should he be? Taking Ken at his word, Gavin told of the leaving gift from his previous job in a pharmaceutical company - a blue wig and a chamois leather, indicating a common perception of Honda cars.

Ken took the opportunity to affirm that they needed this sort of bluntness.

We have to attract the younger generation - help us with it. I'll soon be 60, so Idon't have the right ideas. It's you guys who can generate ideas for the future.

This has had an enormous impact on Gavin and his peers. That the MD was to keen to hear his view even in the first week gave him permission to really go for it.

Louise had a similar experience of being thrown in at the deep end. In her first three months she was asked to redraw the dealership map of the UK. It meant reshuffling and re-organising the previous operation and presenting her results to senior leaders. Her plan is now in place - a massive achievement for one so new.

From the outset I felt I would be listened to and could make a difference. Everyone wanted one of the graduates- we were in high demand.

The moral of the tale, according to Louise?

Have confidence in your people and show it. Give them a free rein and don't be too rigid. They'll work better if they have time away from the mundane - let them take the company forward.

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Action steps

  • Be prepared to ask questions of colleagues at every level. Everyone has something to offer.

  • Let newcomers know from the outset that their view is welcomed and you will embed good communication and respect.

  • Give responsibility freely and back up with support - the result will be stimulated people, great ideas and a dynamic culture.

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Responsibility requires clear measures

Measures and definitions of success provide boundaries within which to work. If you want experimentation, exploration and the best outcome, people must understand what is required and acceptable. If you do not do this, you set them up to fail and they learn not to take risks.

At Flight Centre (FC) measurements relate to tangible factors and form the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for the company. ‘Incentives are based on quantitative outcomes, particularly profit, profit increase, turnover increase, staff retention, numbers of staff developed (leaders), and net income.'

It sounds a far cry from what people imagine is a great people culture, but think about it. How are all those measures achieved? Through effective leadership, care of colleagues, creativity and innovation, and personal and team development. All too often we forget that it is people who run a business - without them there is no profit.

Ninety per cent of FC colleagues sell travel, so if they are doing right by customers, and focusing on cost control, the net result is profit. Money is an easy measure, but it will not do on its own. As other companies have found to their cost, money still comes in for a while after standards have dropped - customers keep hoping it will improve. Poor service now will impact on the bottom line in a couple of years, by which time the rot has set in. So talking with customers on a regular basis and judging their reaction is a valuable indicator.

Staff vacancies is another measure - ‘If the vacancy rate in the UK is less than 5 per cent, and in South Africa it's 10 per cent, then the UK's is clearly the better team.' We all know that people leave managers more often than they leave the job, so the leader must take full responsibility for creating an environment that people want to work in. Their bonus depends upon it.

Underlying each of the measures is the recognition of what is required to achieve it. Vacancy rates rely on good leadership and the work environment, customer service relies on colleagues taking responsibility, profit is only produced when people feel included through effective communication and develop a strong sense of commitment and belonging. All the elements come together to create a positive bottom line.

Measures work well - as long as we remember that they are an outcome. Building on what produces them creates a great company.

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Action steps

  • Do not issue instructions or threats to stimulate improvement - this drives people underground or increases stress, reducing effectiveness.

  • If numbers are down, talk with the team to find out what is happening and listen to their concerns. Find out what other problems they are facing, and what you must do to improve the environment so they can work more effectively. Provide support for those who are struggling.

  • Examine your own concerns about measurement: the effectiveness of your work will be clear, which can be scary. Address your concerns and look to upskill in the areas in which you have least confidence.

  • Get the help you need to prepare for the honest conversations that are part of the process - talk to the HR department or your manager about working with a coach. Giving and taking feedback is never easy, yet if the matter is left to chance, the business will suffer.

Becoming an Employer of Choice(c) Make Your Organisation A Place Where People Want To Do Great Work
Becoming an Employer of Choice(c) Make Your Organisation A Place Where People Want To Do Great Work
Year: 2006
Pages: 100 © 2008-2017.
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