If your company was an animal, what would it be?
Is it fit, fast, flexible and lean? Or maybe it’s slow, cumbersome and not so elegant?
How’s the bottom line? Are your customers happy, always coming back for more and does that happen because of or in spite of your team?
Is your team engaged or in conflict? I once worked in an organisation where the Managing Director loved to micro manage. He was so happy with his policies and procedures but if you had scratched below the surface we were all doing our own thing.
As middle managers, we knew what words our boss wanted to hear so whilst accommodating him we created our own system to ensure that production and quality targets were met.
We only learned that the production team were treating us in the same way when one of them ended up in A&E having blatantly ignored the procedures because he’d found a ‘better way’.
Trust was low, a ’them and us’ culture thrived, departmental silos formed. Blame was everywhere, absenteeism and sick days were an issue - most days it was an effort to get the quality product out of the door. There was no well-being in that company.
When I left to set up my own childcare facility, I had to find another way. I knew nothing about childcare and was going to be working part time; micro managing was not an option. We all have worries that keep us awake at night. Far from the fluffy perception of day nurseries full of cute babies, finger painting and nursery rhymes, so exist the managerial challenges of recruitment, cashflow, health and safety, with the ultimate being cot death.
Having been a quality manager on the receiving end of poor quality childcare, my facility was only ever going to be the best and I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own. As a leader, I needed to create more leaders not followers; confident decision makers who in my absence looked after both the children and my business investment.
What’s your company’s purpose?
When I asked my team, they replied ‘to provide the best childcare’. It was a great starting point, we were already committed to a shared vision.
Ask yourself: Do your people share your vision?
How do you achieve a shared vision?
I asked them to describe in detail the best childcare and as they were all qualified and experienced, it was easy. Between us we built a picture of how it was going to be, then we broke it down into achievable chunks.
By seeing exactly how even the minor tasks fitted into the big picture, everyone understood the importance of their contribution in order to provide the best childcare and ensure our success.
Ask yourself: Do your people know how their roles fit into the big picture?
What qualities do you value in your people?
Companies hire on qualifications and fire on attitude. We all agreed that we would prioritise attitude and founded our 16 Star Qualities. Our recruitment, training, review and reward processes all focused on 16 soft skills essential for success. Our top 3 star qualities were confidence, communication and integrity.
Ask yourself: What qualities do you nurture in your people?
If the person doing the job has all the information, why are you making the decisions?
As in any business, there was a lot of information flying around and decisions that had to be made. I wasn’t going to be there so we put our vision at the core of every decision. The key to answering every query was asking, ‘Would they do that in the best nursery’?
Ask yourself: Who makes the decisions in your organisation?
Communication is the real work of leadership.
Information is power and we all needed to be powerful. That information had to flow. Teams met weekly to formally capture and review data and set the week’s goals. We all met monthly out of hours to keep on track. As we focused on increasing confidence and integrity so everyone became more informed and in turn more powerful.
Ask yourself: How do you communicate?
Where do your good ideas come from?
When self-confidence and trust grow within, people start looking to improve their environment. We researched shamelessly both inside and outside our sector for best practice and brought it home. As we grew in confidence and knowledge, so did the business.
Ask yourself: How do you encourage new ideas?
Did we get it right all the time?
Any organisation is a living system in continual motion, some days we sped along, others not so much. Our priority was to focus on moving forward and accepted that springing forward can only be achieved by taking a step back. Blame went against our core values, mishaps were a reminder to review, regroup, learn and grow.
Ask yourself: What do you focus on when it doesn’t go right?
We grew to trust each other and love our work; employee engagement was high, absenteeism and staff turnover non-existent. We excelled in delighting our customers and our reputation and business grew. I learned that if I focused on looking after my team they became good communicators and confident decision makers looking after the bottom line.
How do you measure your company’s well-being?
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