Monday, April 24, 2017
Imagine tapping Alan Varney on the head for good luck before boarding a flight, says Steve Hutin, the managing director of Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd., before making more serious points.
When Cristiano Ronaldo unveiled a statue of himself at Aeroporto da Madeira, which was renamed after arguably the world’s best footballer, authorities at Swansea Airport got thinking about how they could generate interest in their own, more modest landing strip. It would be too cliché, they thought, to do the same with a Welsh player so they looked for playmakers at local businesses.
I took a phone call from the airport and a representative explained they’d seen our media announcement about Rope and Sling promoting Alan Varney to operations director and Angela Holmes to finance director.
“No disrespect to you and Angela,” they said, “But we’re thinking of renaming our runway after Alan and want to display a bronze bust of him out the front of the terminal building.” They went on to explain that they envisage pilots and passengers touching his head for good luck as they prepared to fly.
I jest, of course (can you imagine?!), but the idea isn’t as crazy as you might think…
I watched in awe as a Ronaldo hat-trick saw Real Madrid secure extra-time victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-final second leg last Tuesday night. He’s won everything in the game, and even has airports named after him, but his attitude, endeavour and desire to give his all for the team cause was every bit as impressive as his footballing genius.
We can all learn a lot from the way Ronaldo conducts himself, chiefly because he proves talent, which he has in abundance, isn’t enough. He has to put in the hard work on the training ground every day and wake up each morning with the right mental approach. Before Ronaldo can even think about kicking a ball, he’s got to make sure his diet, sleep and training regime are in order. Moreover, he’s got to go to work every day thinking there’s capacity to improve and learn something new.
I’ll be honest, I’ve questioned whether he is truly a team player in the past but I take all that back. On Tuesday night, he was the greatest team player of them all.
So what’s so different between Ronaldo’s approach and that of Alan and Angela? Not a great deal, actually.
Ok, Alan lets the diet go at weekends but, like Angela, he reports for duty every day, gives 100% and, despite knowing the company and his job inside out, he demands constant improvement not just of himself but the whole team. While Ronaldo is judged on performances on the pitch, our new directors are judged on monthly figures, sales budgets and the systems they implement to ensure smooth running of the business.
We have goals; they’re just not between posts and beneath a crossbar. Football and business are equally obsessed with results. Further, in an industry like lifting, legalities, guidelines and regulations heap even greater pressure on senior professionals.
While it might sound like a pressure cooker environment for Ronaldo, Alan and Angela alike, this winning mentality, whether it is related to football, operations or numbers, is an extremely effective way of managing stress and expectation. Setting realistic, short-term targets that form stepping-stones to the larger end goal keeps a mind suitably challenged but constantly rewarded by achievement. Ronaldo doesn’t think about winning the Champions League in the first group match; he focusses on eating, sleeping and training right in the week leading up to the opening game. Then he celebrates scoring the winning goal.
This blog isn’t about me, but I’d explode if I concentrated 100% of the time on opening our 10th UK facility. Instead—and with Alan and Angela’s help—I set about getting systems in place at our first site to make sure we could successfully open and sustain our second, then third, and so on. As a journey that might take me two decades to complete continues, I’m not overwhelmed by the size of the challenge because as we open a site and return positive results, it’s an achievement in itself to celebrate. I don’t wheel away and embrace any fans, but the principle is similar.
The mental side of things has been widely reported recently, for different reasons, following Prince Harry’s comments about his state of mind. He went public about seeking counselling after 20 years of not thinking about the death of his mother, Diana. I welcome his campaign because some too readily bury emotions, which leads to greater problems later in life. If people felt more comfortable about addressing problems and talking to friends, family or professionals, I’m sure more could avoid the downward spiral that they get sucked into.
When Harry spoke of feeling like punching someone it resonated with me because I remember being more hotheaded as a younger man. It’s not about being aggressive or losing control, but suppressed emotions can come out at the worst time if not tackled head-on. I’m not ashamed to admit that stress led to me losing a job much earlier in my career. The experience taught me that if a problem isn’t addressed, it quickly becomes two, then three, then four issues. When 10 small problems combine, something gives way.
It’s important that public figures, like Harry, speak up about mental health because a stigma is still attached to it. It’s wrongly seen as a sign of weakness and people are embarrassed to talk about it. A broken leg or bad back are almost badges of honour, yet depression or bereavement is brushed aside. I’m no medical professional but I understand enough to say the brain is the most complex part of the body so why isn’t there wider acceptance that it can break down?
Another problem is that some people abuse the complexities of mental health and play the stress card. That’s not me suggesting mental health isn’t real—it is—but it has been given such a bad name. It’s something all business leaders need to be aware of. I always look closely for small changes in behaviour and attitude in employees, which I have found are key indicators as to someone’s genuine state of mind. I fear not all supervisors do this and themselves disregard signs of mental issues, thus, further compounding the problem.
As I’ve said, at Rope and Sling, mental approach is key. I surround myself with good people. I always encourage employees to put their families first and understand the importance of striking a balance. If anyone needs help on any level, providing they are committed to the collective cause, they receive the support they require. This only works, however, if everyone is on the same page and behaves authentically. I’d encourage all business leaders to create a positive working environment. All of our managers, like me, are demanding but approachable.
As our company grows and we employ more people, we must accept the level of responsibility we have to our expanded community. When we reach our goal of 10 facilities, imagine the families that will be indirectly impacted, financially, emotionally and otherwise, by activities at our workplaces. That responsibility is taken very seriously and healthy work / life balances will be a cornerstone of staff recruitment and retention.
Thank you for reading—and keep engaging with us on Twitter at @RopeandSling #RopeandSling
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd