You know it’s your employees, right? Sometimes you may lose sight of that - so, let’s take a moment to reconnect with why your people really are your greatest asset (and how you can keep them super productive and onside).
And even though a contented workforce is important to the success of your business, last year Phillipa Kindon from Mayden had an insight that she just wasn’t expecting.
You can’t ‘make’ people happy
“One of my core beliefs is that everyone deserves to be happy and I’ve always thought that people deserve to be happy at work. Regardless of the work they do or their reasons for doing it, each and every one of us deserves to be happy. What I learned in 2018 made me question and challenge that belief in a subtle and surprising way that I wasn’t expecting.
Whilst I still believe that everyone deserves to be happy, what I realised last year is that I held the assumption that somehow it is the organisation/employer’s job or responsibility to ‘make’ their employees happy; put the right structures in place, offer proper recognition for a job-well-done, offer great benefits, create rewarding jobs etc. What I have come to realise is that this simply isn’t true. There is only one person who is responsible for your happiness, and that is, of course, yourself. That’s not to say that employers shouldn’t still work hard to get it right for their staff and customers – of course they should. It’s more about recognising that how you perceive, accept, change, influence, work with, resist or face head-on the challenges that life throws your way IS your choice, and that when you start to look after your own happiness, others will start to look after it too.
The things that have helped me to learn this lesson include a couple of inspirational key-note speakers at conferences, a kind and gentle therapist, some incredible colleagues and coaches, a profound 10-hour flight to Florida, a very welcome hotel upgrade, and a generous sprinkling of Brene Brown books and Ted Talks.
So what I take into 2019, from what I have learned in 2018 is a new strap-line for one of my core beliefs… that everyone deserves to be happy and that each of us is responsible for our own happiness. I am also coming round to the idea that it all starts with kindness and compassion for ourselves, but maybe that’s the subject for another time.”
Philippa Kindon, Executive Programme Manager | www.mayden.co.uk
It’s much easier (and more fun!) to grow a business with other people on board.
“It’s common to be nervous about bringing somebody else into your business. Often, it’s your baby and you feel quite protective – I worried that someone else wouldn’t be able to do the work to a high enough standard. It’s similar to fear of delegating in a corporate environment – but with my own business it was even more personal. Plus I was also worried about the overhead commitment. However I became conscious that growth was only going to happen through taking people on. I was working silly hours (still do sometimes!) but mainly I was causing bottlenecks because I couldn’t get through everything quickly enough.
It’s freed me up to have the headspace to think about other stuff. Plus the business doesn’t grind to a halt when I’m in meetings, everything is much more fluid now. I was really lucky to employ somebody who really cares about the business. She will often say “I’ve been thinking about this idea”. It’s brought loads more to the business than simply delegating my excess workload. Plus being in business can be an emotional roller coaster – now I have support and somebody to share some of it with.
My advice would be – consider how big the commitment really needs to be. My first person was on a consultancy basis and had variable hours. You don’t have to commit to fulltime at first. Also – always verbally check personal references (it’s something we always do for our clients). If the references are just written then alarm bells should ring. It might be absolutely fine – but you can’t beat a conversation with the referee to make sure you’re making the right decision. And then go for it!”
Help Your Staff Develop Resilience
“In 2018 I learnt to accept that things will happen in work and life that can derail any best laid plans you have. Having the resilience to jump back up and keep pushing forward is needed more than ever, especially with the ever-increasing uncertainty around Brexit and the future government.
Resilience is a skill we all need to help us travel through life; and is one of the skills that feels less informed. By helping build the resilience of the people in your company it will have huge benefits. People that are more resilient to cope with work and life pressures won’t dwell on failures but will be more confidant and productive; they will also see difficulty as a challenge, not a problem.
We will all falter at something in our life but from personal experience you need resilience so not to let it defeat you.”
“Make sure you ask your people a question before telling them what you feel is the answer. I think we are sometimes too eager to get through issues by telling people what to do. Give them adequate time to respond, otherwise this will not allow our staff to develop.”
Be mindful of Mental Health
“Open your eyes to potential mental health issues. This can be massive; however, we have to make sure we don’t take the problem on as our own, whilst still being receptive and mindful”.
Stop ‘parenting’ your staff
“The Transactional analysis model has been useful– stop acting like a parent to help prevent any of your staff acting like children.”
Engage with Your People
“Taking a small amount of time to regularly engage with your staff on a more personal level is really valuable. Hence our new rules – 10m smile and make eye contact, 5m engage in brief small talk (….and try to be positive).”
Leadership Behaviour Really Does Influence Culture
“We need to keep working on this in relation to our H&S processes – we need to make sure everyone has “above the line” behaviour.”
Help Your Staff Talk about Mental Health
“I think this is a really important topic to bring more into the open and get people talking more. We’re not emotionally genuine enough with the people we love ….let alone our work colleagues. I think a real problem that holds back the construction sector in general.”
Recruit decent people, who fit in your organisation.
“But it may not always work out first time. Don’t put up with them, move them on if they are not showing the correct signs. We have been guilty of this and let things go on to long. I had to let someone go, the week before Christmas, this person has been with us for 7 months, he should have gone in the first few weeks. We were lucky, back in August we recruited a Business Development Manager, his skill set combined with our Technical Director is proving to be a winning formula.”
Listen to your staff and implement their ideas
“An idea was suggested by our longest servicing setter – on the shop floor, we introduced a buddy scheme for the setters, to try and pass on valuable skills and bring employees up. Staff need to be empowered to be able to perform. ”
“I offer my support but try not to do their job for them. I am guilty of trying to do things myself so my aim for 2019 is to delegate more. And make sure that whoever is doing the job is up to speed and fully trained to avoid tasks boomeranging back to me.”
And for those of you taking on new staff who want them to hit the ground running, here are some insights from a contributor who took on a big role at Amazon which didn’t work out.
The relationship with your manager is critical
“When I started my new job at Amazon I should have remembered this. Of course I always knew that this was important, but in my recent experience it was all about conflicting personality types. I knew from the moment I met my boss (phone interview, face to face interview) that he had a personality type that I didn’t like. He wasn’t capable of small talk, he wasn’t conversational, there were awkward silences and I felt that he was always trying to catch me out. Reflecting on the interview process, I knew we wouldn’t get on together but felt I could win him over or change the dynamic. Easy in hindsight, but perhaps I was overawed by the opportunity and didn’t objectively consider that we wouldn’t work well together. I think I wasn’t honest with myself. I should have talked to the people in my network to get some second opinions. I may have made the same decision but I think by verbalizing it externally my views would of changed.”
Engage with and understand your key stakeholders
“Amazon’s a big company with lots of moving parts but I wasn’t proactive enough, I was too tentative. I could have asked for more direction, but because of the poor relationship with my boss I felt I couldn’t. Having been at my previous company for 17 years – I felt I had become institutionalized and it was hard adjusting to the culture at Amazon. The lesson for me (which I have way overcompensated for in my new role) is to figure out quickly who my stakeholders are and start a dialogue with them, to understand the value I can bring. This has been way easier in my new role because the technology set I know very well (less at Amazon), so perhaps I should have invested more time in learning the technology (would have built confidence, even if it wasn’t critical).”
Take a break between big roles
“In retrospect, I should also have taken some time off in between Veritas and Amazon. I think this may have given me more of a natural break between the two roles whereas I didn’t. Veritas stopped on the Friday and Amazon started the following Monday. ”
Thank you for all the fantastic contributions, some of which came from:
Emma Crowley, MD | www.pnplastics.co.uk
Richard Mabe, Director | www.soilfix.co.uk
George Evans, MD | www.soilfix.co.uk
Richard Mabe, Director| www.soilfix.co.uk
Kate Clarke, Founder | www.artemisclarke.co.uk
Bevan Hillard, HR Consultant | www.soundhradvice.com
Philippa Kindon, Executive Programme Manager| www.mayden.co.uk
Next up are tips on looking after yourself (because don’t forget – you’re another crucial asset in your business)