A real team needs a determined leader

JUST as businesses have changed in the last 25 years, so have people’s attitudes to employment. It is not unusual to hear older business managers moan about the lack of loyalty staff show their employers these days. But many employers fail to realise that the changes in British business and these attitudes are actually a symptom of each other. The more creative and service-driven nature of the UK economy means that staff are a company’s most important asset.

To help out business owners, we tracked down someone who really knows about leadership: Lieutenant General Sir Robert Fry executive chairman of the army officers-turned-entrepreneurs behind the consultancy firm McKinney Rogers for five tips on building loyalty.

Fry says: “There are, of course, the basic hygiene things to consider. You have to pay your staff properly and offer rewards for good performance. But these are so basic that they are hardly worth mentioning. The more difficult part of building a team’s loyalty is not so easy to define.” Business owners, Fry says, often mistakenly think that staff only care about money. While the “bread and butter” elements of pay and conditions are important for keeping staff, building loyalty is more complex.

This tricky bit of leadership requires business owners to align personal and collective ambition.

“In the armed forces,” Fry explains “lots of people are driven out, not because of their lack of personal ambition, but the lack of national ambition for the army. The relationship between a company’s staff and managers is similar.” The leadership should try to bring into line varying desires.

“The best leaders give power away,” says Fry. “Tyrannical organisations can only ever be successful for short periods of time.” This he explains is because staff will keep leaving and they will forever be training new people.

If leaders trust their judgement and employ talented people, they should trust them with as much responsibility as they are capable of handling, says Fry. “Giving staff lots of responsibility makes them feel valued, empowered and really part of what you do.”

Fry warns that businesses that experience high turnover can reach almost legendary status within their sector. “You don’t want to have people saying they have noticed that your staff don’t stay with you long. Presuming the staff are paid properly, businesses that have lots of people leave have internal management problems and good potential employees might be deterred from joining you.”