19 December 2010

As someone who is fixated on growing and motivating my team to be the best at what we do, I am always trying to understand the key driving points that make some people incredibly successful.

I was about to start blogging about the fact that when you have a wife and children, you suddenly seem to become more successful. I first came accross this theory when Vernon Lord, then finance director at Granada, jokingly commented that he disliked me – there is always a little truth in the jest. He said, “you have no wife, kids, loan repayments, school fees, ex-wives. You have nothing that ensures you have to perform.”

I reminded him that I’d never missed my target and that I was his most consistent performer. “That’s another reason; you have messed up my theory!” he said.

And actually, during the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year, I am reminded that my theory is completely inaccurate. Merely a coincidence. There are millions of unsuccessful parents as well as successful ones. I have the association of this,  just like Veron, because over the years I have seen people step up when they have children.

So yes, becoming a father or mother  is a driving force, but it doesn’t guarantee success and what about the individuals who are well on their way to success long before they settle down?

They announced the winner of the Life Time Achievers Award, David Beckham; he is a great example of someone who was inspired from an early age.

In fact, Beckham optimizes real inspiration, and it’s something he has had since his childhood. Are the qualities you find in a David Beckham character the same ones required in someone who is successful in business? Absolutely. They are one and the same. However, where sport has some great personalities, it concerns me that on the very same channel, we are spoon fed Sugar as the equivalent role model for the business world. Sorry Mr Sugar, I am sure you are a very nice man off camera and all aggressive finger wagging is just for TV, but you are no David Beckham. It does make me think that we need better role models in business.

I remember hearing a comment from a senior official in the IOD (Institute of Directors) the year I was kindly awarded Young Director of the Year. It was explained to me that the then Alan Sugar, (prior to his first title of Sir) was setting a very bad example in the manner he was conducting himself in the boardroom, saying “you’re fired.”

I have to agree on the basis that, really, you’d find yourself in an employment tribunal if you really behaved like that with your staff, so for young business people who are aspiring to be entrepreneurs, Sugar is not someone I’d recommend emulating. There are much greater leaders out there.

John Timpson is one of my favourites. Another man who is a massive fan of Timpson, is a friend and client James Kight of Printerland. He is a good example of one of those driven characters too, a Beckham of the online world.

Gail pointed out that 2 of Alan Sugar’s directors joked that neither had ever had a compliment in the 14 or so years they’d worked for him. I find this extraordinary and actually quite intriguing. My real concern with Sugar is his lack of humility and if you have any doubt, look at the chair he uses in his boardroom. It is higher than all the others, almost throne-like.

If you want to gain the respect of your team members, work along side them; yes, direct but do not “Lord” things over them.

And bending back to Beckham, it is lovely to see a grown man, a real celebrity genuinely humbled when picking up his well earned Lifetime achievers award.

And here is the difference. During his speech, he talked about everyone else’s hard work. He never mentioned his own commitment, not once. Great leaders take it on the chin and  blame themselves when things go wrong but you can really spot the best leaders by their lack of appetite to take the glory. They reflect praise and credit others when they are complimented on their success. Beckham stands out as one of those greats, and his speech was a pleasure to watch.

Described by Sir Alex Ferguson as someone who hung back after training to carry on practicing, a joy to watch. You can only imagine the work he put in. He was 16 when he joined the men at Manchester United. If that is not praise enough, I thought HRH Prince William summed it up superbly, when he credited his “*skill, passion and dignity.”

Are these not the essential ingredients I am hunting down? Whatever walk of life you want to be successful in, I think this is as succinct as you can put it.

If there is one other thing that amplifies success – and I know is true in my case – is that behind every successful man there’s a strong woman. Victoria Beckham may not be the most popular person in showbiz but who can deny her strength of character? Victoria is a formidable woman and an exceptional business person in her own right. It is great to hear a modern day living legend like Beckham speak from the heart and credit his wife saying “she truly is an inspiration to me every single day.”

So, maybe a wife is needed after all?

Have a great Christmas and thank you for reading.

Back in 2011

Best wishes from everyone at UKFast

Lawrence

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* “His contribution to football during his 18 years in the professional game has been exceptionable. As a player he has served loyally as England’s captain for many years, providing us fans with some of the most memorable moments of English football for a generation. During his career he has had highs and lows, but has always remained determined committing himself fully to his Country, his team mates, and to his fans when he is on the field to play. Most importantly, he is an example to young and inspiring footballers of all ages and stages of their career of how to play the game with skill, passion and dignity. Many congratulations David, a well deserved award” HRH Prince William

“Indeed it was a great pleasure to play with David Beckham, a great joy. He is a great footballer and I think even a better person.” Zinedine Zidane

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