Bosses are generally dictatorial because they know it’s the best way to get things done quickly. By contrast, an owner-manger who is too friendly with staff will often fail to command respect and that will be reflected in the running of the company.
Not so long ago, a report was commissioned by the Department for Business to look at the issue of employee/employer engagement. Quite reasonably, the report states that the more leaders and management engage with the rank and file, the more productive and efficient a company will be.
This doesn’t just mean being a nice person. It entails delegating tasks and talking with employees, rather than talking at them, to find out how they think things should be done. The benefits of ditching an old fashioned ‘command and control’ style of leadership apparently results in less absenteeism, and a better understanding of what customers and clients need.
The report states: ‘Engagement, going to the heart of the workplace relationship between employee and employer, can be key to unlocking productivity and to transforming the working lives of many people for whom Monday morning is an especially low point of the week.’
Engagement happens, says the report, in organisations such as John Lewis Partnership, Tesco, Standard Chartered Bank and BAE Systems (putting the latter’s corruption probe to one side).
The report goes on to suggest that other companies across the UK, both large and small, need to follow the example set by such leading lights. In principle, this is again perfectly reasonable, if not blindingly obvious. The problem is that the leadership qualities required for running a large organisation are a world away from the needs and resources of an average SME.
For a smaller business, delegating tasks and empowering staff remain difficult because quite often employees aren’t up to the job. Some people are morbidly averse to responsibility and decision-making, while others like the security of doing the same tasks day in, day out.
A growing business won’t be able to pay chunky salaries and attract the brightest and the best, which means the average SME is frequently held together by a few smart, driven individuals. The rest are simply pulling the oars of the boat and thinking about the weekend. That’s why taking a leap of faith by investing in training for staff and encouraging them to step up to the plate isn’t easy.
If the trust is there and both the budget and time are available to train those employees who want to be trained, then the benefits for a company will start to show over time.
It will allow the ambitious chief exec to leave the office or factory and win business and cultivate new avenues for sales. The less ambitious boss may prefer to finish early on a Friday afternoon and go and practice their golf swing.
As for the employees who have been allowed to raise their own game, there is the possibility that they will connect with the company, take pride in their work and, who knows, not question the meaning of life every Sunday night and Monday morning.
That can only be a good thing.
Besides, promoting from within is whole lot easier and cheaper than hiring staff from scratch.