28 June 2016

What can businesses learn from the government?

I was asked this question by BBC Radio Scotland earlier today and my answer was clear: the government should be learning from businesses, not the other way around.

david cameron taken from twitter

Image from @David_Cameron.

How can we learn anything other than what not to do? The political landscape of Britain is so bleak at the moment – with more shocks coming by the hour, never mind the day! Today Corbyn’s received a landslide vote of no confidence – 172 to 40 is an extraordinary majority.

Would this practice of ‘no confidence’ work in a business? No, I absolutely don’t think it would. But that being said, a business should be run like a democracy in the sense that key decisions are put to the team as a whole rather than staying in the boardroom.

For example, when we moved offices back in 2013, we asked the team about location and facilities, and when we had a potential property, we put it to the vote. It was essential to check in with the team before making such a big change to the business.

It’s all about balance.

If you held a vote for everything, there’d be chaos. Can you imagine someone proposing a vote to work an hour a day? Or for unlimited holidays? Who would vote against that? I’d wager that very few would vote against and very soon your business would be in trouble.

I was also asked if this kind of system would enable teams to criticise their boss. Surely this is a given in any business? Feedback is essential. For example, we go beyond the 360 degree feedback loop at UKFast; we include the team, clients, suppliers – as many people as we can. This gives people a forum to share their feedback, suggest areas for improvement and let the management layer know what they need. These areas are then directly addressed and we look at how we can improve.

We also adopt John and James Timpson’s upside down management style, placing customer-facing teams – or those at the ‘coal face’ – at the top of the pyramid. They’re the ones who are in touch with our clients; they know what our clients need and how we can accommodate that, so why wouldn’t they be empowered? As the CEO I am at the bottom of the pile.

Cameron, Corbyn and Boris among others, have shown the opposite of this, placing themselves at the top of the pile and ignoring the needs of those below them. They are showing the worst traits in leadership by avoiding the questions that we all need answers to. There seems to be no one in Westminster who can give a straight answer!

If they looked to some of business’s great leaders they would see that leadership is about being a motivating character, about being supportive and about being humble.

Do you think the business world can learn anything from British politics?

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