By SCOTT NORVILLE – SILVERSTONE FLEET MANAGEMENT
Never has the importance of effective leadership and managing people been more clearly seen than in the past 12 months.
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year presented enormous challenges for businesses across all industries. Businesses were suddenly burdened with unprecedented financial and strategic difficulties. Whilst some organisations were forced to bring their operations to an immediate halt, others found that their services were in even greater demand. For example, in the vehicle leasing trade, as the pandemic developed, calls for vehicles boomed as commuters opted to switch from public transport to their own set of wheels.
As CEOs tried to manage these various pressures, those who stood the best chance of, not only surviving the pandemic, but coming out of the first lockdown thriving were those who valued the importance of good, clear leadership.
Adaptive leadership and remote working
Company leaders have had to show adaptive leadership in the past year to keep their organisations on track. So much has changed so quickly, including the huge rise in remote working.
For some firms and employees remote working was a breath of fresh air. For many employees it reduced their work-related expenses and meant they were not disturbed by the types of distractions often found in an office environment such as non work-related conversations and background noise. For employers it offered the possibility of attracting talent from a wider pool and the chance to reduce their own outgoings through downsizing their premises.
However, other employees reported suffering from the impact of isolation and were fearful about their future job prospects, whilst the potential for absenteeism or reduced productivity levels was a particular issue for some bosses.
The key to managing these negative aspects has to be good leadership and this means good communication. Where remote working has become the way forward for businesses it is so important that managers show good leadership by communicating clearly what they expect from their team and what support is available to help them work from home successfully.
To make remote working an integral part of an organisation, managers should be looking to implement things such as daily reports, so everyone is clear on what they are doing. It can also be a good idea to keep staff regularly updated on the progress of the business as a whole.
Clear and concise feedback is important to deal with any problems quickly but also to praise and recognise the good results that have been achieved. Also don’t forget to schedule regular team and one-to-one briefings. You may not be together all the time anymore but you can still catch up regularly on virtual platforms or arrange to meet up. There’s no reason these should always be business meetings either – fun quizzes or general chats can make the world of difference to staff morale and team spirit.
Don’t follow the crowd
We’ve talked a lot about the increase in remote working but this doesn’t mean it is right for every business. It’s easy to get swept up in new trends, but a good leader should always have their eye firmly fixed on what is best for their business.
Some businesses were temporarily forced down the remote working route due to the restrictions of the first lockdown, but they could see that particular model of working wasn’t going to be in the best interests of their organisation going forward. I’ll be completely honest and tell you that our organisation was one of those that found it just didn’t work for us.
We made the situation work at the time but it just wasn’t sustainable long term. It was key that we found innovative ways to bring our team back together in a Covid-Secure environment as quickly as possible.
We realised it was vital to put additional things in place that would focus the team to help us achieve our goals coming out of lockdown. We did this through implementing a variety of safe, socially distanced team competitions, including beer pong, table football, darts and our Spin the Wheel game which we broadcast on LinkedIn each week. To be in with a chance of competing in Spin the Wheel you have to achieved good results in the previous week or have been chosen by the team in recognition of your hard work. It’s not all about great prizes – in the mix there are a few booby prizes, like dance for 10 seconds in front of the office – but altogether this has fostered a great sense of camaraderie within the team.
As a result, when the team came back, the environment changed overnight. The team bonded even more, which resulted in higher team spirits and the belief they could achieve anything together.
Even when the first, and then the second lockdown, came to an end, the competitions didn’t stop andthey continue to be instrumental in bringing our team together today.
Recognition is key to a happy workforce
Wherever businesses currently find themselves operating from, one of the keys to boosting staff productivity and motivation is happiness.
Independent public policy think tank, the Social Market Foundation, reported a few years ago that experimental trials had proved that making people happy could increase firms’ productivity by 12% and that lower happiness was systematically associated with lower productivity.
There are many innovative ways that businesses can boost the happiness of their workforce. We’ve mentioned the competitions we run to build camaraderie and we’re certain they played a large part in our firm hitting its 2020 targets before the end of December and why we are in the running for six regional and national awards, despite the pressures of Coronavirus.
What is your relationship with your team?
There are various, recognised styles of relationships between bosses and their teams. The main ones include Democratic, Autocratic and Coaching.
The democratic style of leadership allows for group decisions to guide the team and tends to work best with highly skilled and motivated teams.
Autocratic leadership can help to keep employees focussed on the task at hand but it can be seen as dictatorial and lead to friction with innovative employees.
Coaching leadership involves the manager taking time to educate their team. Most employees will need some form of coaching at some point and coaching often pays off further down the line as staff grow in confidence and skills.
In the past I worked in roles for other people where there was a lack of management and focus and I felt I wasn’t valued. Those positions quickly became 9-5 jobs where I was craving the weekends, and dreading Mondays. When I started my organisation, I wanted to make sure my team would never feel like this.
Personally, I find it hard to relate to an autocratic form of leadership. I think it’s better to think of staff as a family that all acts together as one team. I believe you get better results by motivating staff through fun activities, congratulating them on their hard work and offering monetary bonuses when targets are hit.
It’s been my experience that by embracing team members and making them feel like part of a family you have a better chance of retaining them and their talent. It’s the team that make a business, not just the owner.
Which leadership style you choose will come down to the type of marketplace you are in and the team you have before you. Ultimately, I would urge business leaders to get to know their team and find out what makes them tick. If you do, you will discover that each team member is motivated by something different – for some it will be money, for others it will be acknowledgement of a job well done. It’s down to managers to find out what motivates their staff and act upon that information – if they do this successfully it is likely to have a huge impact on the success of their business.