When I retired from full-time employment, I decided to leave behind 25 words that hopefully some in the organisation I worked for would appreciate. After thinking long and hard how to sum up in just 25 words my last advice to the team, I came up with the following:
“Have a relationship with a fellow human being, not a position. Through your behaviours create a caring and fun environment where results just happen naturally.”
Why did I choose these 25 words? Well, I delved back into my memories of my work experiences over decades and one thing stood out for me and that was the lasting memory many of my superiors had left me with. So many people I’ve worked with have hidden behind a position and used their positional power to get people to do what they wanted them to do.
Yes, the old saying is, in many cases, true when they say rank has its privileges. Apart from better pay and benefits, rank bestows upon individuals, positional power. This can be compared to the power a parent has over a child. Many parents raise dysfunctional children because of abusive parental power with, in extreme cases, physical and physiological mistreatment.
I regret to say I’ve witnessed many I’ve worked with using positional power to force teams and individuals to do what they want using threats and fear. Having experienced first-hand this abuse of power I’ve strived to make sure it is something that does not happen on my watch.
I’ve strived to make work fun for everyone no matter what their role. Life is too short to spend much of it going to work miserable, frightened and demotivated. In a year, those in full-time employment can spend close to 2,500 hours at work. Nobody, no matter what their role, deserves to spend so much of their life feeling unloved and miserable.
Good bosses try hard to remove fear and inject fun. Don’t get me wrong, this is not all about having a good time and not getting the job done; it is the reverse. Happy people are more productive and as a result delight the customers.
I am also a great believer in being a boss who cares for others. Some years ago, when I was visiting our team in Djibouti, one of the warehouse team asked to speak to me. He explained that his wife had just given birth to a new baby who unfortunately had a large lump in her head. The local hospital doctor advised that the child had an inoperable issue and there was nothing that could be done and to expect the child to die quite soon.
I agreed that the company would pay for the two of them to go to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia for a second opinion. The visit to Saudi was a huge success and not only was the problem correctly diagnosed but it was resolved during the visit. A big happy ending for the parents and more importantly the little girl.
News of this story soon was known by all the team in Djibouti – who were not only delighted to know of the outcome but also the fact the company cared enough to go the extra mile to support a team member in distress.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at email@example.com