Ian Baxter, founder of UK logistics company Baxter Freight, offers ten ways by which business leaders can put their company on the right footing with a detox of their business – leaving any bad habits or practices firmly behind and setting a very positive agenda for the year ahead.
Declare war on your ego
Ego problems have been messing up people’s lives since Adam and Eve ate an apple in the garden of Eden. It’s wonderful if you’ve had enough success to become a business leader – congratulations! But please don’t let it go to your head. Ego and self-importance frequently get in the way of good decision making. As the leader, your job is to discern the best possible decision taking into account input from all sides.
It’s not necessary for all the best ideas to come from you. The best leaders give away credit ‘over generously’ choosing to make those around them look good. Such a posture helps build up and empower your team, ensuring YOU benefit from broad based and sustainable support.
Tear down the walls
Many CEOs describe their people as their biggest asset, although it isn’t always evident that they treat them as such. I believe every business, big or small, should have an open and transparent culture where the communication gap between senior management and their team is kept to an absolute minimum. Leaders simply have to know what is going on, the problems and the opportunities. Swap your ivory tower for a ring side seat in the rough and tumble of your business, once you’ve done it, you will never want to turn back.
A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work
It should be one of the first rules of capitalism that people are paid wages they can realistically live on – surely capitalists of all people recognise it’s not the job of the state to cross subsidise the reasonable living costs of workers by paying them ‘working tax credits’ or ‘in work benefits’. Whilst I am all in favour of free markets and competitive packages for successful people, when it would take the average worker 160 years to earn what the average FTSE100 CEO earns in one, more consideration needs to be given to striking a fair and sensible balance. Really you should be able to pin the salary list on your notice board, so it’s clear everybody is properly rewarded for their contribution and to dispel any doubts around discrimination.
From zero to hero
In this age of zero hours contracts, there has been much debate about what actually constitutes self-employment. Although the flexibility of operating in a ‘gig economy‘ might suit some, many companies use it as an excuse not to give workers full-time employment contracts and access to basic workers’ rights. Where practicable, it’s much fairer to offer staff permanent work, or at least provide set minimum hours so workers know exactly when they’re supposed to come in. Zero hours contracts have their place but that should not open the door to abuse.
I see you!
Modern life can be stressful. We all have our ups and downs, so recognising when staff are under pressure and need extra support is often much appreciated. Flexible, understanding employers who treat their staff as people, not just as a resource, are much more likely to inspire loyalty and you only have to look at the number of days lost nationally to mental health issues to know that something must be done. We’d all rather work for someone who cares about us and takes a genuine interest in our well-being. So, let your employees know that you ‘see them’ and want the best for them this New Year.
Let them eat cake
Whilst money matters, going to work isn’t just about how much you earn. Many of us spend more time with our work colleagues than we do with our families, so don’t underestimate the significance of job satisfaction. At Baxter Freight we take every opportunity we can to build community at work: we hold Christmas parties, celebrate birthdays, go paintballing and have a football team. We also eat a lot of cake, which may be bad for the waistline but is certainly good for the soul. We get so many comments from visitors who can see what a great place to work we’ve built that it must be true.
Walk a mile in others’ shoes.
Hopefully, most of your team know their own role inside out, but do they understand and appreciate what their colleagues’ jobs entail? Where practical, consider a brief ‘job swap’ so staff can experience first-hand the pressures and responsibilities of other people’s roles. This exercise will break down inter-departmental barriers, illustrate the value of effective team working and demonstrate the contribution everyone makes to your business’s success.
If you want to challenge your team’s performance you need to start by earning their trust. People need to know that they are valued and supported in order to perform at their best. So never miss an opportunity to praise good performance or celebrate a good result. Make clear that you are ‘for’ your people, and will back loyal staff through thick and thin. Chances are they’ll repay your support just when you need them the most.
Honesty is the best policy
There really is no substitute for managing with integrity. If you haven’t got it, it’s time for a long hard word with yourself. Don’t hesitate to level with people, explaining what you’re trying to achieve, making clear your expectations and constantly letting them know when they’re hitting or missing them. How can people trust you if you’re not able to tell them the truth? Never allow people to talk behind other’s backs. If they want to criticise a colleague, bring them together so they can talk issues through. If they’re not prepared to tell someone what’s wrong to their face, advise them to ‘forever hold thy peace’.
Do the ‘walky talky’
All this talk has been lovely but words don’t matter anywhere near as much as your actions. It’s time to say what you mean, and to do what you say, to walk your talk, speak less and do more.
You should choose to lead with integrity and humility, treating staff fairly and making sure your business is a great place to work. If you embrace this change I believe your customers will notice and I fully expect they’ll enjoy working with you even more as a result. That’s not just a nice idea, it’s a way of working that will improve your profitability, a business plan you really can take to the bank.
Do you have any other corporate detox ideas for businesses? Share them below and get involved in the conversation…
Ian Baxter is chairman of Baxter Freight