Thursday, October 26, 2023
You’ve heard the song sometimes chanted at football matches and other sports events: ‘We All Dream of a Team of…’
Fans belt it out to serenade a favourite player or to celebrate the longevity of someone that has given service to a club; it is perhaps most commonly associated with the workhorses of a side versus its best players or superstars.
Of course, like all such anthems, it doesn’t speak a word of truth.
You wouldn’t want a team of Gareth Bales (ok, you’d win more matches than you’d lose), just like a squad of Chris Gunters or Neville Southalls wouldn’t get anywhere fast. Even though a squad of Erling Haalands would frighten the life out of any other side, you wonder what the effectiveness would be of having a striker, or number nine, in all areas of the pitch. It sounds better than the reality.
The same can be said of business, as I am frequently reminded when we shuffle our formation, ask an individual to step up into a more senior position, or take a walk in the recruit minefield.
You would have likely read in trade media and on our social platforms over the last few weeks that we recently named Sophie Coleman manager of our Heathrow depot. It’s a case in point.
As the reports, and posts, explained, Sophie joined the company 14 years ago, at the age of 16, as an administrator before being promoted to sales and hire coordinator, based here in Pyle, South Wales. She relocated to London in 2019 to take an office manager’s position; the site was three years old at the time, having been set-up as our fifth location. Today, we have 10 national facilities.
It’s not a journey a business can go on without learning a trick or two about leadership and building a team. One of the most important things to remember about growth is that every step must be taken with the bottom line in mind. That’s where (real) growth is measured.
In Sophie’s case, it so happens that she’s had four significant roles that have served as mile-markers on her way to facility management. But that doesn’t mean it makes sense for everyone to follow along a similar path. And, while ‘We All Dream of a Team of a Team of Sophie Colemans’ has a ring to it, such a line-up would be top-heavy.
So, where do leaders come from?
And how do we make sure we don’t ask people to play out of position?
One of the problems that I’ve touched on before in these blogs, is that businesses too often reward performance with leadership responsibility:
The leading salesperson ends up heading the sales team.
The best chef is put in charge of the kitchen.
The star player is named captain.
The trouble is, nowhere in the skillset that leads to healthy sales, mouth-watering hors d’oeuvres, or a sackful of goals, is there necessarily scope for management or leadership.
You could even argue the opposite is true:
A salesperson wants to hit their targets to earn commission for a new pair of shoes.
A chef is narrowly focussed on what they’re serving to earn the plaudits of a customer and a role at a better restaurant.
A striker doesn’t pass to a team-mate because they want to beat the last defender and blast the ball past the goalkeeper, so the rest of the team run to congratulate them.
Performance is thusly a poor barometer, at least in isolation, by which to measure suitability for promotion. Company owners and team leaders must look at the bigger picture; the cohesion of a team is more important than its senior people. And if the wrong people have been put around the boardroom table, for the wrong reasons, things turn sour quite quickly.
Sophie, by her own admission, was no world-beater when she first walked through our doors. However, upon relocation (to London), she had an immediate impact, improving all aspects of the operation. Today, she excels in all facets of leadership and is outstanding at customer engagement and service. It’s a reality that it remains a male-dominated industry, but Sophie possesses great people skills and gets the best out of individuals at all levels of the business.
Whether someone like Sophie sells the most, has the most Michelin stars, or was top goal-scorer for three seasons running, doesn’t really matter.
It’s the dedicated, honest, loyal, driven, determined individuals that inspire others to be their best, that you should look out for—if they’re top of the class, or not.
One of the character traits I look for in those I promote into leadership positions is an ability to remain a team player. In other words, can they take the big decisions, lead, inspire, educate—and pave the way for other individuals and the wider organisation to be successful?
Can they collaborate?
Is teamwork in their DNA?
Do they celebrate team goals even more than solo efforts?
Do they let the team take the glory for executing a strategy they implemented?
My operation isn’t unique in that, as referenced above, we have multiple sites; they each have their own profit and loss accounts, and all service their own customer base. But in geographical and technological terms, the UK is a small place, so there is often a need to join forces and work with counterparts to bring certain orders and projects to fruition. To me, this is the most rewarding part about the growth of our company; I enjoy watching us fly in formation.
Sophie’s depot, for instance, is an hour or so drive from our Aylesford operation in Kent, to the southeast of the city. The two teams will continue to share resources, with Coleman working closely with her opposite number there, Graham Dawson. I already know that Sophie and Graham, like other managers here, will exemplify the power of partnership. Healthy competition is to be encouraged, even within an operation, but never to the detriment of the collective and all-important bottom line.
Watch a team of serial winners celebrate achievement; everyone punches the air.
Watch a fractured team get a lucky goal; the scorer wheels away like a superhero, while some team-mates don’t even bother to go over to offer congratulations.
You’re all familiar with the roles it takes to grow a successful lifting and rigging business; without welders, fabricators, drivers, salespeople, accountants, managers, etc., none of us would have lasted for very long. A weak link anywhere in the chain, in all senses, would lead to failure. That should remind us not to see every position as a stepping stone for someone or hastily promote an individual after a period of solid performance. There are other ways to reward people and make them feel appreciated.
Of course, there are times when taking a player off the field of play is as important as throwing a person in at the deep end. Perhaps that is a blog for another day.
In the meantime, keep learning.
As Sophie says, “…I need to remain committed to continuing professional development to build my knowledge and skills.”
Stuck in the middle
It would be remiss of me not to mention the scrapping of the northern leg of the HS2 project—we are a major supplier to multiple sites—which remains in the news headlines for different reasons than we have been used to in recent years.
I read only at the time of publishing this article, that bus services in parts of England will get a £150m boost due to the scrapped Birmingham to Manchester leg. I understand why the government said facts about HS2 had ‘changed’, as the eastern leg to East Midlands Parkway was also axed, but you do have to ask the question as to what the point of all the effort and expense was, into what will become an isolated London to Birmingham service.
It’s an expensive fare, isn’t it?
The Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) is being more proactive than ever in marketing this year’s LiftEx, which takes place on 21-22 November at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool.
Whether it’s the Accredited Training Scheme Seminar, awards, exhibition, networking, or something else, there is a sense that this year’s show will be among the most vibrant in its now 18-year history.
Remember, we’re sponsoring the lanyards and on-site water bottles—and have one of the most prominent stands on the show-floor.
See you next month.
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd