Leadership in UK Business - Post Crash

I recently questioned the extent to which proposed changes in employment law would benefit British business. Instead I suggested effective leaders are a far better way to improve our business prospects. This is a theme I have been exploring in more detail via my own research. This research has given me the opportunity to interview key personnel in businesses across a variety of industries ranging in size from 50 staff all the way up to global blue chip companies.
To date the findings have been interesting. Firstly there is a perception that the old certainties which existed before the economic downturn do not exist and may never exist again. Quite simply, the world is a more volatile place that it was in the latter parts of the 20th century and very early 21st century. Not only do we have adverse economic issues but we increasingly have less certain resource, climate and political issues to contend with.
Consequently, many businesses are challenging their existing practices and are searching for more sustainable business models. This isn’t sustainability in the context of the environment or corporate social responsibility (although it may include both of those). Rather, sustainability is being used as a term to describe adopting a successful long term approach to business which stands in sharp contrast to the ‘profit at all costs’ model. Businesses still want to make money but the key difference is that making money now isn’t at the expense of making money in the future.
So how does a backdrop of volatility & a desire to create a sustainable business model impact our approach to leadership? Certainly, businesses who think sustainably, are accepting the need to put a bigger emphasis on leadership as opposed to management. Key themes have emerged around the type of leaders needed. Terms previously not always associated with industry such as ‘moral’ have been used. This is because the sustainable leader needs to truly consider the needs of their people, their customers and their stakeholders and not just pay lip service to them. To work successfully against a backdrop of volatility, those same leaders need to be able to put on different leadership ‘hats’ to fit different situations and be entrepreneurial. To be successful with both sustainability and volatility those leaders must be able to motivate, involve, empower and engage their people. Arguably above all else, these are leaders who can accept those at the helm of a company don’t have a monopoly on wisdom.  

KPMG Report on Minimum Wage & the UK

KPMG recently published figures (shown on yesterdays BBC website) showing that one in five workers in the UK are paid less than the basic living wage. There are arguments on both sides about the moral rights and wrongs of this and this has already been covered by many others. The only thing I will say is that I'm glad I don't have to exist on minumum wage! However what the report also does is to bring the issue of pay into the spot light.
In my experience, I have found money to be one of the most misunderstood motivators. Many of us naturally assume that everyone works for money but substantial evidence shows it is not as black and white as this. Certainly when I take people through a career coaching process it is nearly always the case that money isn’t high on their agenda – even when they first thought it was. I’m not advocating pay isn’t important, but rather, that most people are motivated by other factors too such as a nice work environment, nice colleagues, to be listened to and have a chance to do fulfilling work. The best thing of all is many of the fore mentioned are free! Pay is generally only an issue if it isn’t enough i.e. what people would perceive to be fair & equitable for the work they do. Whilst some people are undoubtedly more motivated by money than others, it is worth considering the limitations of pay when using it as a tool to motivate your staff to do their work (which when you think about it is essentially why you pay them in the first place!). Otherwise you might run the risk of losing good staff to competitors which is definitely costly.

Changes to UK Employment Law - will they work?

It appears Vince Cable thought so called ‘fire at will’ proposals were a step too far, but how much will a slackening of employee rights really help UK business? Whilst I feel some changes will be useful for employers, many of the employment issues I come across aren’t a consequence of employment law, but rather a consequence of poor leadership! In the UK we have a habit of promoting people to 'management' positions on the basis of their technical expertise as opposed to their people or leadership skills...and whilst we're at it, what the hell is a 'manager' anyway? I'd argue that most people don't need to be managed, they need to be led!
Anyway coming back to the topic, Employment disputes are often the consequence of festering issues that haven’t been tackled at source via a difficult conversation, or are themselves caused by a poor 'manager'. Similarly many businesses apply management as a bolt onto other responsibilities. Whilst this is often inevitable - particularly in smaller organisations - it can mean people management becomes an afterthought. Unfortunately this can contribute not only to problems but also a slowdown in efficiency, customer service and innovation