10 August 2017

what do business and chickens have in common?What do chickens and business have in common?

As an entrepreneur with pet chickens at home, I am probably quite well placed to answer this question but I don’t ask this based on my own experience. I asked this following a TED Talk I recently listened to.

Business leader Margaret Heffernan starts her talk with an analogy about chickens. She describes a study by an evolutionary biologist at Purdue University, Indiana. He took two groups of chickens, one of which he left alone for six generations. The second group, he filled with only the most productive chickens and only selected the most productive for breeding.

When he revisited the two coops he discovered distinct differences. The first group were plump, full-feathered and had increased their egg production dramatically. In the second group, however, all but three of them had died. Sadly, the surviving chickens had killed them.

The individually productive chickens have only achieved that success by suppressing the success of others.

Real superstars build other people up

Whilst Margaret’s TED Talk about chickens may seem like an odd analogy for business, it is actually incredibly important advice. She explains that only rewarding the superstars in business and giving them all of the credit, resources and power will end in the same way as the chickens – people suppressing others for their own success.

I learned this along my business journey; often it is not the ones who shout the loudest who are doing the greatest work. Every business needs a balance of these bold, outgoing characters with people who are quieter and more reserved. Both are equally tenacious and bring equal value, but in different ways.

For me, a successful leader or team member is not someone who knocks others down for their own success, nor someone who takes credit for other people’s work. Great teammates are those who support others, who strive for team success and, often, who are the most humble. Humility is an extraordinarily important trait in business.

Culture is everything!

People are motivated by one and other – they are motivated by learning and development. Money only  motivates people so far. That’s one of the greatest lessons that I have learned during the journey building UKFast to where it is today. It’s clear walking around UKFast Campus that one of the most valuable parts of our business is the culture.

We’ve worked incredibly hard to ensure that new teammates add to that culture rather than diluting it. That’s why we have such a rigorous recruitment process and why we use psychometric testing. These tests give us a picture of the person and how they would fit into the team, what motivates them and how they learn.

Every single person in the UKFast team has what we call ‘the supportive gene’. People who are naturally predisposed to look after one another above all else. Whilst there are different personalities and characters, the supportive gene is the common thread.

Ultimately everything in business, including your team, is about finding balance.

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