20 July 2018
The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveller came along wrapped in a warm cloak. They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveller take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other. Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveller fold his cloak around him; and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveller took off his cloak. And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two.
Kindness effects more than severity.
When we strive toward a goal it’s natural to feel a little pressure. When a deadline approaches, the stress we feel increases. And when we’re pushing toward that it’s all too easy to pass that pressure onto those around you: onto your team and colleagues. But is that the best way to reach your goal?
Put simply, no! It’s certainly not! I have learned many lessons along my business journey, none so much as this. As a young man, growing a fledgling business, I emulated the people I looked up to. I looked to the big international players, the huge corporates. I believed that to encourage your team to push further and to boost productivity, you had to be tough.
Targets, incentives and numbers were the order of the day. I measured everything, I put emphasis on how long people spent on the phones, how their numbers stacked up. If they didn’t add up, it wasn’t good enough.
Now I know differently. If someone’s numbers don’t add up, more often than not that’s because they have something going on at home. They are feeling pressure elsewhere in their lives. That last thing they need, therefore, is being put under more pressure.
Instead, taking time to chat with teammates and getting to know them and how you can help is a far better way to resolve things in the long term. Much like Aesop’s fable, the sun’s kindness is far stronger than wind’s aggressive approach.
There is no replacement for kindness in business.
I have long said that the examples set by the likes of Alan Sugar and Donald Trump in the Apprentice boardroom are incredibly damaging for budding entrepreneurs. When you see a successful businessperson behaving in this way, it’s natural to want to emulate that. However, shouting people down and being a truculent character, you’re far more likely to drive disdain and resentment than motivation.
That’s why at UKFast we have significantly more flexibility in our workplace now. We have a gym on site so if people are feeling stressed after a challenging task they can head down, at any time of the day, for a workout. We also have sleeping pods so if someone’s feeling under the weather, they can go for a rest. We’ve also found that these come in incredibly handy for new parents who are suffering with a bit of sleep deprivation!
We also have a hardship fund that I don’t often talk about. This is there in times of real need and emergency. I won’t go into details of how we’ve used this for people in the past, but it’s there should any of the team find themselves in a bind.
Both sides of the coin
The priority for our whole management team is on getting to know our teammates, so that we can spot when they may be struggling or need that extra helping hand.
Having been on both sides of the coin, I can tell you now that kindness is the single most important part of being a leader. There is nothing more motivating than being aligned, aiming toward a common goal, with people who you genuinely can call friends.
I know I would much rather be in a team where I can empower and encourage people, rather than micro-managing and shouting, wouldn’t you?