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NEW GENERATION: PRIORITISING INVESTMENT

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If we take a look at the well publicised research of Harvard Business School (HBS) and its Profit Success Chain, leaders have to admit that, in business as, people are their most treasured investment. The people in your business determine your success. This is why HBS keeps reminding leaders to create a positive work environment for their employees. This leads to greater service, more loyal customers and eventually higher profits. As a young CA(SA) and a future leader in our young democracy, you need to remember that your greatest investment will always be in the people that work for you. Even in the most driven capitalistic environment, you need to remember to invest in your people.

Why do leaders disregard research as clear and comprehensive as the Profit Success Chain? Do they read the right books and adhere to the right guidance? Leaders are bombarded by the marketing of Donald Trump and Jack Welch’s leadership books, but rarely hear or see marketing of the research done by leaders that really make a difference. Sure, Trump and Welch have achieved enough to grab attention, but young leaders should be careful to take everything in their books for granted. Jim Collins (leadership researcher) caused a stir when his research found that great leaders shy away from attention and are rarely if ever published in magazines or books.

I have the privilege to work with some of these great leaders daily. Without a doubt I can honestly say that the leaders that are most effective and produce best results, are the leaders that invest both time and money in their people. Their priority is to focus on their team, making sure that the team gets sufficient recognition and reward. Perhaps the question on your mind as a new generation CA(SA) and potential leader is: “How do I invest in my team?” “How do I build the people for whom I am responsible?” Let me discuss the following three basic issues that will guide you in the right direction.

The first issue that needs to be addressed is responsibility. When appointing someone, make sure that they have a clear job description detailing their responsibilities. This description needs to be in place before the prospective employee starts. The people that you appoint must know for what they will be held accountable. I work in many major corporate companies where people are employed without a clear description of their responsibilities. Many times I have consulted for a corporate company where an individual is being disciplined for not producing results, even though he/she had no idea what results needed to be produced? I often get the excuse that there is no time to clarify responsibilities. If you want to invest in people, you must start with a clear description of what you expect from them and how their performance will be measured. If you don’t, the reality is that you will create a co-dependant and frustrated employee that will produce poor results.

A second issue I would suggest is identifying training needs. Few people can up their game without the necessary skills to do so. There are the hard quantitative skills, which are essential for producing desired results. More important these days are interpersonal skills. Most International Business Schools are moving back on the pure quantitative skills and now adding about one third of interpersonal coursework to the curriculum. I recently worked with a security department in a corporate company. These guys were brilliant with security, and very skilled to deal with crime. Their challenge was that they were not equipped with the soft skills to deal with the people that they were trying to protect. A soft skills training programme provided them with the tools and techniques to work effectively with their fellow employees and survive in the corporate environment.

The final issue is that you need to build a team. If you want to invest in your people, you will have to understand the value of a ‘team culture’. This is where you as a leader move the culture from “me” to “we”. Team culture is very counter the normal culture. We live in an individualistic culture and focus only on our own needs. A team culture will help us to also focus on others. I find that one of the greatest needs we as humans have is to belong. This is also true in the work environment. Therefore, you as a future leader should always be aware of anything that threatens to destroy the unity of your team.

The biggest threat is usually favouritism, which inevitably leads to the formation of cliques. Another threat is diversity. How to manage diversity in your team will always be a challenge. We all have different cultures (which are many in SA), generations (currently six in the work environment), personalities, genders and emotions. (We have to accept that people are on different emotional levels because of various factors.) Managing this diversity is essential to teambuilding.

When James Mcnerney produced unbelievable results as the new CEO of Boeing, he was interviewed by Fortune Magazine in November 2006. The article was entitled: “Secrets of Greatness”. When asked how it was done, Mcnerney answered: “I start with people’s growth, my own growth included. I don’t start with the company’s strategy and products. I start with people’s growth because I believe that if the people who are running and participating in a company grow, then the company’s growth will in many respects take care of itself”.

If you are serious about success as a new generation CA(SA) leader, and want an unbeatable return on investment, please make sure you invest in your people.

Hermann du Plessis is part of Therapeia, a Seta accredited consulting, training and coaching business, focussing on the human capital growth of corporate companies and individuals.