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When I started my first job in the mid-90s, I asked my new manager to tell me what his job involved. I expected him to tell me about the function he managed, but his response surprised me (he was clearly ahead of his time). He told me his job was to ‘hire people who are smarter than him, show them where we are going and then get out of their way’. I remember thinking that sounded so simple, why wouldn’t everyone be a good leader?
In the many years that have passed, now with experience in leading small teams and large, employees and volunteers, I know getting the best out of a team is far more complex. That simple statement above, requires a level of self-awareness, humbleness, direction and trust that doesn’t come naturally to most of us.
So how do we get the most out of our team? We invited 8 successful leaders, who lead vastly different businesses, to share their top tips on how they motivate and inspire their team to achieve their best.
Leigh Marriott, Director – Sovereign Financial Group
In our business we continue to invest time into our staff and ourselves as leaders to ensure we are all coming to work for fun and profit. Having the ability to understand what is happening in our employees lives and building a rapport with their families allows us to deliver on our ability to show real care for each other. This then flows into the levels of communication we have with staff, especially on the changes that constantly occur in our business and the industry and importantly we can have a very clear understanding on how these changes will personally impact on them. Our leadership style is very nimble, we are able to action strategic change which our staff embrace, as they are involved in our planning from the very start. Personally, I spent years in the old school accounting and planning practices, so I know exactly what I don’t want to be, and I think that allows us as leaders to deliver a working environment that is different to the normal practices in our industry, which our staff really enjoy and appreciate. And finally, the one aspect all of our staff really enjoy is our complete client focus approach, they really do enjoy an environment where they feel they can help a client, make their own decisions on client work and fees and implement their strategies. None of our staff have budgets or targets to meet, we as leaders believe that client satisfaction tells us when our staff are doing a good job, and we also know that our staff are always doing the right thing by the client under this model, something we have been doing for over 12 years now. Our staff retention is high, so we must be doing something right.
Leon Wilson, Director – Revolution Print
We cannot expect our staff to step up and do the hard yards, unless we are beside them doing it with them. There are times when we need to work ridiculous hours to deliver the high level of service our customers expect. Our staff know that it is highly likely they’ll be working beside a Director at 1am to get the job done, that we are in this together. They are like our family, we wouldn’t ask them to do anything we wouldn’t do ourselves.
Our interactions with our staff need to go beyond discussing the day-to-day activities. Our culture is vibrant and unique and very precious to us. Our values and our mission are reinforced every day by what we say, how we act, how we talk to our customers and each other. We regularly talk passionately with our staff about why we are here and the path we are taking. This allows them to understand our mission on a deeper level and be clear about the end goal. Consistency and clarity are the key.
Lynne McLennan, Chief Executive Officer – UFS Dispensaries
If you lead others there’s one really important thing to remember: You can set the tone for the day. Managing other people means you have a huge moral responsibility for their well-being at work. A key element of good leadership is enabling staff to feel connected and purposeful. Not everyone has the job of their dreams – but workplaces can still be satisfying places. We don’t all have to skip joyfully across the threshold every day – but staff should at the very least be coming to work with a reasonable sense of anticipation about what is to be achieved today, not with a knot in their stomach.
So, for those who lead others (even if you’ve had a sleepless night/bad cold/crook back/huge workload), remember to greet your colleagues with a modicum of enthusiasm each day!
Scott Seward, Chief Executive Officer – North Ballarat Sports Club
My view is pretty simple, it’s about challenging each other to do things better than they have been done before, to be competitive about trying new things, new approaches to get innovative results. Creating an environment of accountability and responsibility where staff have the freedom to make decisions knowing they have the responsibility to do so, but also the accountability for the result, with support if they fall over. Knowing that you are there to pick them up to go again.
I’m also a big believer in the ‘broken windows’ theory (1), if you concentrate on getting the minor things right, you will be surprised how much easier it is to get the big things right.
We will share the experience and wisdom from more successful business leaders next week in part 2 of ‘8 Business Leaders Share Their Advice on How to Get the Best from Your Team’
Claire Huntington has over 15 years’ experience in senior and executive level human resource management and strategic leadership positions. Claire learnt HR under the wings of great mentors and through trial and error. She has a very practical hands-on approach to HR and management, and isn’t afraid to look outside the box. Claire is also mum to three primary-school aged firecrackers and is an avid photographer in her spare time.
Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. If you wish to act based on the content of this publication, we recommend that you seek professional advice.
 Based on the work by former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani; Michael Levine’s, book Broken Windows, Broken Business, describes a ‘broken window’ as anything that is sub-par that a customer might notice. The problem is that customers will infer something else about your business from that ‘broken window’.