2 October 2010

“Well, I lost them when I mentioned we have trampolines in reception. The 3 man panel looked a little embarrassed.” Said Jonathan Bowers.   “Their eyeballs were bulging. One of the men plucked up the courage and asked, “why? Why would you do that?”

He had been answering questions after a presentation for an award we are finalists for. They asked him about motivation. Its a classic question, because very few people truly understand what motivates people. They assume it’s money. It is never money. Most people use fear,  but fear is short lived. Sustained success is never built on fear.

I often wonder why people ask questions when they are frightened to hear the answer. I believe they ask the question, hoping to find the person who will agree with their own strategy. They find an ally, and this cements their reasoning why they do something in a particular manner.

Just because others follow, does not make it right.

Jonathan explained that the improvements in the office environment directly translated to improvements to our profit.

Well this sort of statement is a “red rag to a bull(y).”

Yet it is true, I can show clearly that investment into the well being of a team, significantly increases output. Yet this scares so many people. Is it the word investment? Is it the word significant? What is it that scares people into not investing into people?

My first objection I get, is the money objection. I get this one all the time. “Why do you waste money on such nice facilities?” Ask this question to James Kight from Printerland. James and his partner Graeme run an amazing business. I am proud to have them as clients and friends.

They moved their business from a string of terraced buildings in a residential area of Manchester to a beautiful purpose built office block and look at the results. Awesome. I’d like anyone to challenge them on this subject. Yet they were brave enough to make this decision and their staff retention and general well being significantly improved. Their team undoubtedly work harder as a direct result.

And not all the investments need to cost money. You can invest energy. Like Jonathan and my fellow directors, all of whom have the boundless energy. I believe this is the single biggest contribution needed when building a successful team. Are you doing the basics right?

First you need to look at yourself.

What sort of leader are you? Do you have a style of leadership already or are you working towards a goal? Can you learn how to be a good leader?

These are great questions and if you can answer these honestly, they will give you the answers to all your questions. When things go wrong, can you blame yourself?

Now this doesn’t sit well with all leaders. It takes a very specific type of person to be a “Level 5 Leader,” (see Jim Collins – Good To Great & Built To Last). Apart from the fact that a level 5 leader has humility, when things go wrong, they take responsibility for everyones failings on their own shoulders. And when things go well, they impart all the glory on others in the team.

Without this basic function, you cannot lead successfully. The reason being is that eventually, people will want recognition for all their hard work. You can only push people so far.

This is why PAIN does not work as a long term strategy of motivating. Once you have inflicted significant pain and suffering on people, resentment kicks in. The only thing you can build on resentment is more pain. But watch out, the bigger the amount you inflict, the more is coming your way, 10 fold. Or 15 fold in the shape of the Sale Sharks rugby team

Here is a great example of a leader who is inflicting huge amounts of pain, day in day out; but without reward. Worse still when they do well, they still get berated. The result; they have nowhere to turn.

I would never normally talk outside of the “clubs walls” however as the relatively new coach Mike Brewer publicly humiliated his players last night after a huge amount of effort on the pitch, whilst talking to the press, I think it is only fair to speak up in the players defense. After-all, as the leader, surely he has to reflect on his own inadequacies too. If the team fails, he ultimately has failed.

It is also important to remember that even if the result is a disaster, it is unwise to deliver a collective bollocking. “Why, do they not deserve it?” you might ask, well, some might. And the problem with a collective bollocking is you are letting the real culprits off too easy and the ones that worked their socks off, quite rightly feel really aggrieved.

This is definitely the case last night and there was good in last nights performance. A great leader looks despair in the eyes when faced with adversity, they still manage to highlight the great tackles, the run up the wing by Hodgson, the perfect kicking and yet, come the final whistle, they enter a silent dressing room, knowing everyone is truly devastated. The only noise is from their big hearts and the sound of the changing room down the corridor. This is pain enough.

This is the time you sit in silence with your troops. Savour the prolonged agony. Then in a calming voice, tell them to remember this pain, reassure them, “This is the last time we feel this together.” Savour this moment, these bad times together are as important as the winning ones if you truly care about your team.

The problem with running a small team with an iron rod, as opposed to a balance of reward and discipline, is that at some point something gives. When the pressure mounts and it always does, you as the leader have nothing to hang on to.

This is when you need the strongest deputy to remind you when you have overstepped the mark. But if your deputy is too young or inexperienced or fearful too, you simply are out of control. There is a fine line with being a tyrant and a stern task master.

As a leader this is where you need strength. You need to stand tall and take it on the chin. You need to be the last to eat, the last out, the most sincere, you are the leader. You are allowed to be fearful, but you must never leave. When you are in pain, sometimes it is difficult to think of everyone elses needs, yet this is how great leaders are born.

If you flee the scene as Mike did, you create uncertainty and mixed with a touch of resentment, a new game is afoot. This is toughest of all problems to identify and deal with. Discord. Once you have discord you really are in trouble.

When building a team from scratch, you need to be aware of the values of the current set up when recruiting. If they don’t match you have to envisage what your team will look like when this persons values are transferred on to the current set up. This is the job of a visionary. This is NOT easy, and therefore this is why people make so many mistakes.

If you bring in someone with very different values, prepare yourself for a long arduous journey of solitude and pain. If it’s any consolation, to the boys who played last night, it is not your fault. You have the support of thousands of fans, and although I have the most expensive season ticket in the ground being the main sponsor, I am not their biggest fan. There are people on the terraces who have followed them all their lives, they have followed them through thick and thin. The good times and the bad. They have memories of their fathers and brothers standing shoulder to shoulder, sharing every emotion. They have never left their side.

Its important to remember, emotion is directly linked to performance. You chose the flavour of the emotion. That is your responsibility as a leader. You need to invest huge amounts of time learning how to understand emotions. This is a massive responsibility and you will live and die by your results.

So in my opinion whether you are a rugby coach, a business man, a father, this is applies to us all.  If you create negative emotion, face the negative consequences.

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