28 April 2014
Since I got back from my recent intercontinental travels I have been writing a lot about how things used to be, for certain aspects of the places I have been to are in sharp contrast to the way things are here in the UK in 2014.
That isn't intended as a criticism. One of the things I was taught very early in my life was that just because other countries do things differently does not mean that they are wrong and we are right; we are just different.
I had been thinking about working conditions because it has long been my view that giving the workers the right conditions for doing their job is pretty fundamental to them actually performing as you would like them to. Now that might seem very simplistic, even obvious, but everything that is complex is made up of a lot of simple things and if it is obvious then why do so many organisations seem to overlook it?
If you start with the most basic business, one person as a sole trader, then they know what is important and get on with it. Providing they do not allow themselves to be distracted they can run their business well, but if they do then there is the likelihood that they will need to take on someone. Working one to one, they can still communicate what they want done and are close enough to observe whether or not things are as they should be and deal with anything that needs addressing.
If an organisation of two people is easy it gets a little less so when there are two hundred, or two thousand and so on and that is why we have some form of hierarchy, a chain of command to enable communication between the leader and everyone else and vice versa. Now it may get more complex the more people you take on, but there is one very simple thing to consider; you don't take on an employee unless you have to. Everyone you employ has a role to play in the organisation and therefore has an equal importance as I mentioned a week or so ago. It doesn't matter what their job title is or what their salary is they are all equally important to delivering your organisational goals.
Leadership is about creating an environment where people can thrive and stay focused on what they are there to do. That doesn't always mean that your place of work needs to be a palace - as long as it is functional and conducive to the type of work being performed you are going the right way. But creating the right environment also means making them feel safe enough to take chances, to not have to be concerned about making mistakes, to be confident about pushing their own boundaries without realising that they are being pushed.
Creating a culture where people are willing to give their all, regardless of their role, is the key. I have just come back from two countries that have gone through major change, one more recent and bloody than the other, and where the people do not enjoy things we take for granted and believe are our right, but they are being given the chance to move forward. There are those who see the benefit in trying to create that environment for their teams to succeed in and are working to make that happen.
Leaders need to give direction and to set the tone, but they also need to make space for their people to work and succeed in.
John Bowen is an FM consultant