Why Succesful CEOs Place Talent at The Top of Their Agenda

Why Succesful CEOs Place Talent at The Top of Their Agenda

Why Succesful CEOs Place Talent at The Top of Their Agenda

Some years ago, I had an interaction with a CEO who attempted to cut my training budget, “What happens if we train staff and they leave?” he asked. I replied, “just wait and see what happens if you don’t train them and they stay”.

The CEOs response was not unusual. CEOs who focus on the balance sheet view training and development as a cost and not an investment in the future.

In this instance he believed that we should simply recruit the best skills we could afford and after their induction their skills development stopped.

Today we acknowledge that the difference between us and our competitors is the quality, talent, skill and experience of our staff.

In my experience the ability to train staff faster and more focussed than your competitors is your greatest sustainable competitive advantage.

Importantly, training and development are not a once off; your staff, your company, the market, your competitors are different to what they were a year ago, and vastly different to who and what they will be next year.

Training – learning for life; simply equips the company with the skills to manage the future and maintain a competitive advantage.

And no, it is not the HR Managers function; attracting, training and retaining talent should be the Number One priority on every CEOs to do list.

If as a CEO you’re not convinced that continuous improvement through the development of skills is important; ask yourself if you would be happy having open heart surgery using an anaesthetist who gave you a bottle of brandy to drink and a bullet to bite on? Of course not, so why would I do business with your company that’s firmly docked in the harbour while the AI, BI, ships have hoisted their sails? Progress is important. But not just progress, exponential progress. Whilst our minds are programmed to think linear, if I walk 30 linear steps, I end up 30 metres from where I started. If I walk 30 exponential steps where each one is double the previous one, I walk 26 times around the world.

Our approach to training must change to accommodate this. The annual training conference and the annual performance review have served us well but are useless now. You need to train continuously, test the knowledge for immediate feedback and train again, over and over.

In his book High Output Management Intel CEO Andy Gove wrote a chapter headed, “Why Training Is the Boss’s Job”. Gove commented, “most managers seem to feel that training employees is a job that should be left to others. I, on the other hand, strongly believe that the manager should do it himself”.

One of the most successful CEOs of Silicon Valley Ben Horwitz read Gove’s book. His experience was that external firms with little knowledge of the company provided little or no value to his firm as they were teaching cut and paste material that was irrelevant.

He applied Gove’s advice to his product managers at Netscape who were adding little value to the business. He wrote a short article called “Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager” which he used to train the team on his basic expectations. Gove commented, “I was shocked by what happened next. The performance of my team instantly improved. Pretty soon I was managing the highest-performing team in the company”.

Horwitz immediately took on responsibility for training investing heavily in it. He would go on the say, “I credit that investment with much of our eventual success”.

So how does the CEO go about this? Here’s the advice I give to CEOs.

Just start.

Set aside time weekly in your diary. Choose a topic that is relevant to your staff, explain what it is you expect from them, why you expect it, how you expect they will achieve it and the impact on the organisation as a whole.  Don’t try and be perfect, the world doesn’t need you to be and remember “perfection is spelled paralysis”.

Send out your training article with a covering note that you want to discuss and get feedback at you Friday morning Exco meeting.

Add material that challenges, engages and encourages growth. Join an innovative training platform like Heavy Chef www.heavychef.com , and circulate links to podcasts to support your topic. Follow opinion leaders on LinkedIn. For example, check out Simon Sinek’s Why, give it context and relevance in relation to your company. Then discuss, get feedback and move on.

For more comprehensive skills development, online courses through Coursera and Udemy can be used specifically for developing a staff member’s skill set. They are short, inexpensive and can be done at their desk.

I took on a new client in the logistics industry. I did a Udemy course for R350 that provided me with great insight and brought me up to speed way faster than if I’d muddled my way around the cabbage patch.

Create pods where staff meet to discuss training interventions, share insights and do collaborative learning. This is great for teambuilding, innovation and for developing a symbiotic learning organisation. 

As CEO you are responsible for the productivity and the resultant performance of your company. Continuous, targeted, on the job training is the cheapest most effective resource to increase performance. The alternative is too ghastly to contemplate.

Gove’s explanation of the impact of CEO driven training at Intel should be the “wake-up and hear the canary” moment for CEOs;

“Training is, quite simply, one of the highest leverage activities a manager can perform. Consider for a moment the possibility of your putting on a series of four lectures for members of your department. Let’s count on three hours preparation, for each hour of course time – twelve hours of work in total. Say that you have ten students on your class. Next year they will work a total of about twenty thousand hours for your organisation. If your training efforts result in a 1 percent improvement in your subordinate’s performance, your company will gain the equivalent of two hundred hours of work as a result of the expenditure of your twelve hours.”

Another important aspect of training is to make your expectations absolutely clear to staff. Too often induction is left to HR and while new recruits know when they will be paid and where the toilets are, they rarely know what is expected of them.

If you don’t train your staff, you have no basis for managing their performance, none. As Horwitz says, “if you don’t train your staff, performance management in your company will be sloppy and inconsistent”. 

I have long held the view that performance reviews are a legal theft of company time. Imagine Ernie Else having a blow out in a tournament the week before the British Open and his coach telling he’ll review it at their quarterly review? No, nor can I. Why do we do it?

Give your staff instant feedback; address and improve shortcomings as and when they come to your attention, give recognition immediately. Saying thank you to a colleague for covering for an ill staff member loses its impact a month later.

Now filter your process of training your direct reports throughout the organisation.

Your Exco and their managers must provide monthly training updates to you; experts should share knowledge and information on specific tasks, this is called skills training.

The other form of training is management development, helping your managers to be the most efficient and effective versions of themselves possible. This creates team synergy and camaraderie, but also a profile and esteem for the person doing the training. And the costs are minimal. As a mentor commented to me just before I did my first training session to staff years ago, “never underestimate how much you know”. Share it. The Feynman Technique indicates that our greatest learning happens when we teach others.

Now create a training and development routine. What Verne Harnish calls the “rhythm of meetings”. Make sure it becomes a ritual. I send out training updates on Mondays for Exco meetings on Friday morning. That’s right, every single Monday.

Remember, organisations don’t have time to do optional things, keeping the trains running is far more important than investing time and effort in the future. Make training compulsory, and drive it from the CEOs office.

Now remember excellence is a habit – you constantly need to practice it to perfect it. Read, write, teach, rinse, repeat. Get cracking. As James Clear says, “if you write, call yourself a writer”. Write. If you’re a leader, lead by example.

In 1990 Peter Senge wrote The Fifth Discipline subtitled The Art and Practice of The Learning Organisation. He highlighted five areas of discipline upon which organisations of the future [us] would distinguish themselves from their opposition. It outlines the very essence of what a CEO should be doing.


Also known as systems thinking. CEOs must view their organisation as more than just the sum of its parts. The success of an organisation is based on the successful functioning of every single part of the value chain. A conductor will focus on every individual in the orchestra; to strive for and produce excellence every brass, wind, and string instrument must function optimally, seamlessly and in perfect harmony.

A proper functioning whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. At its deepest level, being part of a great team is the meaningfulness of the experience. People talk about purpose and being part of something larger than themselves, described by Senge as metanoia. Metanoia means “above the self”, above the self’s mind -learning in the organisation creates this shift. As CEO our scope needs to broader, further, deeper and more holistic. Training gets the team singing off the same song sheet and working towards a combined purpose greater than themselves.

Personal Mastery

CEOs realise that their staff, like them, are by nature inquisitive and curious. They arrive enthusiastic and inspired constantly striving to be the best possible version of themselves possible. If we don’t train them, we simply rob them of this enthusiasm. One of the strongest sources of motivation for our staff is continuous learning, perfecting their craft and continually becoming more capable and competent.

The person they were this time last year, the workplace, and the world have changed significantly from what it was last year; to adapt, adopt and improve you must encourage, NO, force them to learn. If they learn, the organisation benefits from the increase in experience and skills, the classic win/win situation.

CEOs understand that there is a direct correlation between personal learning, organisational learning, personal competence, organisational effectiveness and excellence. They focus on individuals to improve the collective whole. When the tide rises, the super-tanker rises.

Mental models

CEOs create very clear “mental models” using values, mission, and training. Every day people from different classes, gender, culture, sexual orientation, race, religion and political persuasion merge together in your workplace. Training is the single most powerful way of creating a unified “mental model” a united vision of what is and what needs to be.

Training changes the shared mental models of all their stakeholders; staff, clients, customers, suppliers and. They do so by “turning the mirror inward”: unearthing our internal pictures of the world before bringing them to the surface and holding them rigorously to scrutiny. They form the basis of the combined mental model. But what does this mean? It simply means that the CEO is responsible for the inclusive, diverse, high-performance culture of the organisation. He does this by crafting and telling stories. You want to solve the hoary chestnut of diversity and inclusivity? Save the millions budgeted for consultants and develop your own mental models.

Shared vision

The single most critical job of the CEO is to create and hold a shared picture of the future we seek to create. Any organisation that has sustained a measure of greatness has a crystal clarity of goals, values and missions that are deeply shared by staff in the organisation and externally with stakeholders. Flying in formation is the sole responsibility of the CEO. You want to save millions on creating your values? Simply list what it is that your company values. Put it up in the foyer. Write about them in your training. Catch people living them give them public recognition. Insist at every board meeting that the Execs bring one employee they believe lived the values, recognise them with a cup of tea and a certificate. You’ll note I don’t say reward, you don’t reward people for doing what they’re meant to be doing. Pretty soon your organisation will be living the company’s values. The CEO is the custodian of the company values, not the foyer wall. Make it happen.

Team learning

CEOs need to be aware that the intelligence of teams exceeds the intelligence of individuals.  Functional teams develop extraordinary capacities for cohesion, unity of purpose and results.

It starts with training, thinking together, freedom to express oneself, to be heard, to contribute – dialogue – the Greek dia-logos which means a free flowing of meaning through a group.

Furthermore, the open candid nature of discussion means that teams focus on task conflict, meaning that whilst staff might not agree on the solution they are unified against the problem, as opposed to relationship principles which focuses on personal animosity and the organisation killer – office politics.

In conclusion, the message to CEOs is clear:

  • You are responsible for the performance of your organisation;
  • Your organisations performance is based on the hundreds of activities performed by your staff directed by your common vision;
  • Training them to improve by just 1 percent will lead to incremental improvement [read James Clear’s article “This coach Improved Every Tiny Thing by 1 Percent and Here’s What Happened] to see how a slight improvement along the value chain compounds productivity and performance;
  • You are the custodian of your company’s values, live them;
  • Mental modelling helps you create the culture whilst your strategic plan provides the combined vision – you’re training and communication allows you to control the narrative.
  • Do regular gap analyses to ensure staff are skilled to the requisite level to operate optimally.

Now, just start, just, just, just START. And remember Sheryl Sandberg’s advice, “done is better than perfect”. Quite. 

Retrenchments – all you need to know

Retrenchments – all you need to know


by Brian Robertson

Embarking on a restructuring program necessitating the retrenchment of staff is one of the most harrowing, complex exercises an organisation can go through. It requires compassion, consultation, empathy and a clear understanding of what your legal obligations are.

I recently wrote a post on the psychological and compassionate aspect of retrenchments. This article addresses the legal requirements of S189.

Once an organisation has made the decision to retrench, the culture of the organisation will alter significantly – forever. Leadership will assume a higher than usual profile. be judged and be held accountable. Leaders will be expected to act in a manner that is transparent and fair maintaining the trust of the employees who remain. Rebuilding organisational culture is possible but it requires sensitive insight and understanding.

Let’s begin by defining retrenchment. Retrenchment is termed a “no-fault dismissal” as it is a form of dismissal due to no fault of the employee – it is not performance nor conduct related.

Restructuring starts with the employer reviewing the organisation to determine whether it is fit for purpose. If not, this could lead to restructuring and possibly reducing the number of employees.

In doing so, the employer must:

  • Give fair reasons for retrenching (substantive fairness) and
  • Follow a fair procedure (procedural fairness).

Once an employer has made the decision to retrench, the process to be followed is referred to as retrenchment based on “operational requirements”.

Operational requirements mean requirements based on the economic, technological, structural, or financial needs of the organisation.

An example of economic needs would include:

  • A drop in sales or services of the employer leading to reduced income;
    • The closure of business;
    • An example of technological needs would include new technology developed that can replace some employees;
    • An example of structural needs would include restructuring a portion of the business no longer profitable;
    • An extraordinary event such as Covid-19 and the economic impact of lockdown.

Once the employer has decided to follow Section 189 Operational Requirements procedure, they must ensure they follow the procedure outlined in Section 189(2)

  • The employer must consult with the employees who are likely to be affected by the retrenchment, or their workplace forum, registered trade union or elected representatives, or any person elected in terms of a collective agreement.
  • The employer must issue a written notice inviting the consulting employees to consult and disclosing all the necessary information for such consultation. The content to be discussed is advised in Section 189(3)
  • This notice must be in writing and contain the necessary information for the consulting employees to make representations at the consultation.
  • The necessary information includes, but is not limited to:
    • the reasons for the proposed retrenchment;
    • options considered by the employer to avoid the proposed retrenchment and the reasons for rejecting these options;
    • the number of employees likely to be affected and their positions;
    • the proposed selection criteria for selecting employees for retrenchment;
    • the time when the retrenchment is likely to take effect;
    • the proposed severance pay*;
    • any assistance that the employer proposes to offer the employees who are retrenched;
    • the possibility of future employment of the employees who may be retrenched;
    • the number of employees of the employer; and/or
    • the number of employees that have been retrenched for the last 12 months.

*  Employees are entitled to receive severance pay only if they are retrenched for operational requirements. The requirements regarding severance pay are set out in section 41 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (“BCEA”). Section 41 of the BCEA provides that an employer must pay an employee who has been dismissed for operational requirements “severance pay equal to at least one week’s remuneration for each completed year of service with that employer”. However, if an employee refuses alternative employment with the employer or other employer s/he will not be entitled to severance pay.

Leave – an amount of money equal to the annual leave, or time off, that has not yet been taken by the employee must be paid out.

Notice pay instead of working the employee’s notice period –

  • if the employee was employed for less than 6 months, s/he must be paid 1 weeks’ notice pay;
  • if the employee was employed for more than 6 months but less than 1 year, s/he must be paid 2 weeks’ notice pay;
  • if the employee was employed for more than 1 year, s/he must be paid 4 weeks’ notice pay.

Other pay – depending on the employment contract this would be any pro-rata payment of a bonus, pension and so on.

Once an employee is retrenched, s/he is entitled to claim unemployment benefits (“UIF”).

  • The employer and consulting employees must now engage in a consensus-seeking process on certain matters contained in the notice.
  • The employer must allow the consulting employees to make representations about the matters contained in the notice and other matters relating to the proposed retrenchment.
  • The employer must respond to the consulting employees’ representations. If the employer disagrees with the consulting employees, it must state the reasons for disagreeing with them.
  • The employer must select the employees to be dismissed based on a selection criterion agreed with the consulting employees or a selection criterion that is fair and objective. Recommendations regarding selection criteria can be found in Section 189(7)
  • After the consultation process has been exhausted, the employer may make its decision to retrench, and then issue a notice of retrenchment to the affected employees.

The law provides for additional procedures that the employer, employing more than 50 employees, must follow when making a decision to retrench. This falls under Section 189A

For more information and a free consultation, contact brian@saige.co.za

Why Today’s Leaders Need to Understand the Importance of Ambiguity

Why Today’s Leaders Need to Understand the Importance of Ambiguity

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is I know nothing”


OK so here we are. All of us. In it together yet miles apart. A global village self-isolated in our living-rooms. The wings that pulsed the globe’s veins – grounded. Confusion persistently swirling our senses:

“Get back to work – work from home if you can. Lockdown saves lives – lockdown kills the economy. Sell alcohol the state is losing revenue – selling alcohol will overwhelm the trauma units needed for Covid-19 patients. Lockdowns work – Sweden’s open approach worked. You can jog – you can’t jog. You can buy cigarettes – you can’t buy cigarettes.”

We are constantly bombarded with conflicting information, scenarios and realities. This ambiguity, coupled with the intense uncertainty surrounding the future, is the defining characteristic of the current era. An era characterised by an uncertainty of meaning in which several interpretations of the same event are plausible. Leading in these times of ambiguity requires a stoic embrace of the concept and a need to create certainty amongst the crippling uncertainty.

The uncertainty initially alarms all of us. We look at a situation and immediately try to interpret it. We try to make sense of the present. Our interpretation is always right. We then present our interpretation as a fact. There can only be one set of facts, one “truth” – our truth. Invariably our truth then finds its way into the public domain, usually via social media platforms. We impose it on others, even those who do not want such imposition. As a result, news evolves at a blistering pace. Including fake news. Consequently, we are continuously presented with other people’s interpretations of the truth, their opinions. We are rarely confronted with the facts.

This leads to ambiguity.

For instance, one person’s interpretation of the success of the lockdown is different to another’s. This interpretation is invariably based on personal circumstances, their experience and association (we tend to align our thoughts with likeminded persons – especially on social media).

As leaders we need to get used to living with such ambiguity. We need to understand that every person is being confronted with ambiguity, with several interpretations of the same fact. This confrontation occurs every single morning, when social media platforms are checked. Leaders thus need to be comfortable balancing any number of conflicting thoughts, equally. They need to evaluate the ambiguity for themselves and to thrive, they need to come to terms with the belief that it is possible that any subject may have several plausible interpretations.

That is the trick. There is often no ‘correct’ or ‘best’ interpretation. This is not the rule of law, where an interpretation needs to prevail for a judgment to be produced. This is life, everyday living. We are not Judges. But we can be wise, like Socrates, and admit that we know nothing. With just a little knowledge in dialectics we can equip ourselves to deal with ambiguity and lead with greater confidence.

The word dialectic is a derivative of the Greek word for dialogue. Dialectic is essentially a discussion between two people holding different points of view about a subject BUT – here’s the kicker – both wish to seek the truth through reasoned discussion. It is a collaborative process with the distinct absence of emotion and pejorative. Sadly, pejorative language has inserted itself in our current discourse overshadowing proper reasoned dialectic.

To be pejorative means one constantly expresses a negative opinion or low regard of someone. The intention is not to collaborate but to disparage and belittle, as well as to express criticism, hostility and disregard. Destructive, negative behaviour seen daily on social media and in world politics.

The standard is that when two people differ, they belittle one another with the intention of winning the argument by intimidating the other. By killing the messenger there is a misguided belief that I’ve discovered the truth, or at least reinforced my opinion as the only truth. The antithesis of Archbishop Emeritus Tutu who said, “don’t raise your voice, improve your argument”.

Hegel introduced to the notion that opposites were compatible and that we should take comfort in this. He used dialectic as a deliberate contradiction which he saw as a three-stage process: thesis (an idea), anti-thesis (a contrary idea), and new synthesis (where both parties discovered a new truth.

This process was compatible with his notion of absolute idealism which acknowledges dualism and overcomes opposites without sublation. You can have contradictory forces without eliminating or reducing them.

Like Heraclitus of Ephesus some 2000 years before him who discovered the most remarkable of all psychological laws, namely the existence and stability of opposite tensions.

As leaders we need to take all the ambiguity, the various interpretations, the opinions and seek the truth where the truth may be found, formulating it all in a manner which is positive, optimistic and hopeful. This is critical for the survival of your business as well as the productivity of your workforce. People are scared. They are uncertain. They have created binary interpretations. They have aligned those interpretations by association. Those interpretations have become their truths.

  • You need to create opportunities
  • You need to invent the truth about your future. The future of your business.

Ask yourself the following question: What will success look like on all levels for my business: people, profit, [work]place, planet?

Leaders look for the good, the common ground and build consensus and understanding. They embrace ambiguity, simply seeing it as a multitude of opportunities rather than contradictions. They plan, but do not let plans become their master. They are the fox not the hedgehog. They are open to and grasp opportunities in whatever form they present.

In order to grasp such opportunities, they need to be aware of them. Being aware of them evolves from embracing the ambiguity. Once you understand that there are several interpretations of a fact out there. Once you have endeavoured to find the truth. Once you have formulated the facts (or even your own truth from the myriad of interpretations). Then, and only then, can you identify the opportunities and grasp them. Truly wise men surround themselves with great minds fomenting discussion with the intention of discovering new truths.

In so doing, leaders need to take those opportunities, and formulate them in a hopeful manner. They need to present them in a way that generates hope for a better future. They need to be clear in presenting them, in an age where clarity is minimised. They need to convince themselves, and others, that this is the best way forward, forward to a better future. None of us have all the answers. But accepting that we do not have all the answer shows good leadership. It reveals our vulnerabilities and shows our humanity.

Take the ambiguity, take the vulnerability, and present a new future for your business. Present a future based on hope, provide certainty amongst the uncertainty and grasp the opportunities that present themselves. Do not become binary, do not impose your immediate interpretations on others, seek the truth, and present it in a manner which is beneficial for all.

Now is our time. Let us lead.

For further information contact us: e-mail: info@saige.co.za; tel: 087 550 3374 or www.saige.co.za

If you need to restructure do it properly

We only realise the importance of being able to work when we no longer have a job. Work is important. Never forget that.

Work provides us with far more than just financial security. It gives us purpose and meaning. If done well it gives us a sense of achievement and a sense pride. When we reflect on our achievements, we gain confidence. If this cycle is repeated often enough, it leads to successful careers and confident individuals.

We acquire skills, knowledge and experience. Combined these become our most saleable asset in the labour market. Economic mobility, social mobility and success are linked to how strong our skills are. Never stop learning, never stop improving, work hard and you will be your best protection against unemployment.

Martin Luther King encouraged us to see the importance of work as far more than a job description or a title, it is and must be a sense of pride:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

 There is nothing more depressing than seeing the ghosts seated behind a desk in state departments shuffling paper, void of energy, passion and hope. As leaders it is our responsibility to see every function as important and every person fulfilling it as worthy. This is the way we build great organisations; we start with ourselves, then those around us, there is no other way.

As leaders, when we need to restructure, we must continue to see the person as worthy. Before we can truly lead others, we must seek to understand the complex relationship they have with work. In helping them to deal with their sense of loss, their sense of exclusion, the sense that they are no longer wanted, and to hold their hand as they tentatively embrace an uncertain future – then we truly become great leaders. I have never met a great leader who did not care and who was not kind.

“Your staff don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”

It is not so much the process to be followed, (Section 189 is relatively simple), but the empathy and emotional intelligence with which one manages the process. You can manage an awful situation with sensitivity and by keeping the affected individual at the centre of the process or you can treat them as a payroll number you simply delete on your keyboard.

Marikana is perhaps the most extreme example of where a company’s HR Department can lose touch with the sentiments of their staff.  Know your staff and sense the mood of the organisation.

In my experience, and there are many examples, businesses begin the slow decline to acrimonious staff relations and ultimately business rescue when they fail to care for their staff. Staff who are present become disenchanted and demotivated. They withhold vital effort and skills. This you will never measure or monitor.

The way you treat staff is the way they respond. Treat them badly and those that can leave, usually your most talented as they are able to find alternative employment. Those that remain, do so for the wrong reasons; they simply can’t find alternative employment, they simply go through the motions. In no time you have a sub-optimal performing organisation.

I have seen an organisation shed talent, institutional knowledge and when forced into selling the new owners had no continuity and no intellectual property to work with. It began with the CEO buying a brand-new Mercedes and parking it in front of the staff canteen while a large retrenchment process was underway.

One of the most disconcerting memories I have of restructuring was of a father of four who lost his job. After being retrenched, he came to see me every morning for seven months in the hope there was a vacancy. He would wake-up every morning, make breakfast for his wife and children, see them off to work and school respectively.

To see him slowly lose his self-respect, lose his financial independence, lose his self-esteem in a patriarchal society now that mom as the sole provider was to watch a slow steady erosion of a human. To get out of bed in the morning and have nowhere to go day after day after day. To have no money to spend on anything let alone transport meant he walked nine kilometres to see me to spend. To have no work to exercise your skills. To see the sunken eyes and the drooped shoulders meant I had to do something, not to help him, but to save him.

I approached the factory manager who created a post as a cleaner in the stores. When I informed him, he sobbed, hanging on my shoulders until he gathered himself. His recovery was as swift as it was remarkable. After a few months was striking with the unions for better coffee in the canteen.

His neighbour who had also worked for us was retrenched at the same time. He sat on the side of the road every morning in all-weather for months on end waiting for a day job as a casual labourer. After a few months, he simply gave up, losing all hope. He slipped slowly and unwillingly into a life of drugs and delinquency. Petty crime and regular jail time became his tragic routine. After less than a year he died of TB. Work matters. Never take your job or your career for granted. Never.

Many of my clients are battling with what I call the Rs;

  • repurposing
  • restructuring
  • reengineering
  • redeploying
  • retrenching
  • redundancy

If this is the case, you need to have a very clear process of how to go about this.

The process we follow is to review your business to ensure it remains fit for purpose. The purpose must have a commercial rationale. Then follow the four Ds; Discover – find out whether your reason for being still exists, Dream – create a vision of future success, Design – put in place the steps to achieve your dream, Destiny – review and reinforce so it becomes part of the organisation’s DNA.

Only once you have a clear plan should you consider redundancies and retrenchments. We offer an outsourced HR service. For further information regarding this contact us at info@saige.co.za or call us on +27 (0)87 550 3374.


Top tips on managing staff working remotely

Top tips on managing staff working remotely

Well this is new. My staff are scattered all over the paddock as I slide my bowl of porridge aside making place for my laptop. Here we go, google – “How to manage your team while working remotely?”. Not only is this new, but it is here to stay (for the foreseeable future at least). Managers, employees and the like are going to have to adapt. Quickly.

It is ok to feel vulnerable and take time to listen, reflect and let it all work out – to reach out and find one another. Today, right around the world, leaders, managers and parents are all scrambling to make sense of so, so, many things. Having your staff working agile, remotely, WFM, whatever the term is, is not something many of us have experienced before. That’s fine. Embrace the change and use it intuitively to find a way to better your productivity, enhance your business outcomes and motivate your employees.

I introduced remote working at my previous company twenty-five years ago. Initially it was “seat of the pants stuff”, but it worked out well in the end and I have never looked back. Hopefully you will find some of the experiences I share useful.

Here are my nine tips to working from home:

  • Understand what it means to work.

What is it that you do, exactly? You started out as a clerk at a law firm. You were drawn to the law because you find the complexity and intrigue of drafting contracts appealing. Now you have a department with twenty staff. You are a manager. There is a vast difference. Do you know what this means, particularly given the current lockdown and post-corona workplace? Find that. Write it down. Analyse it. Study it. Reflect and work out what your new priorities are.

  • Measure the right things.

Yup its that simple. Measure what matters. Measure the right stuff and you create magic. Measure the wrong stuff and, well you get what you measure – the wrong stuff.

Many years ago, I recall sales staff being measured on whether their cars were clean and well serviced, their petrol slips were in on time and their sale sheets were up-to -date.

Guess what? Great administrators. Clean cars, petrol slips in on Fridays and sale sheets up-to-date.

Measure sales against target. Guess what? You get sales against target.

Work out what your business needs most, and measure that.

  • Manage by objectives [MBO].

Manage outcomes not processes. If your best sales rep is setting sales records sitting in a cabin in Montague why drag them to office to see if their car is clean? Stop it. Now.

Set your staff an objective, clear and concise. Define the standard required. Set a timeframe. Ask them to repeat it so they are clear about what you require of them. Get them to keep you appraised of their progress. Make sure they have resources to achieve their goal. Let them achieve their goals. Go. Celebrate. Thank them. Gratitude goes a long way and gets you results ungrateful leaders never experience.

  • Do not be afraid to delegate.

Did you become a manager to feed some poor issue of self-esteem? Do you love having an office full of fearful staff you can laud over while fueling your ego? Well the terrible news is: a virus just upset your life.

Yes, you may be trying to rekindle your desire for power by checking your staff are online and measuring their time sheets. This will have a negative impact on your business. It results in lost talent, unmotivated employees and measures the complete wrong thing. Measure their objectives and delegate their tasks. You do not need to check up on them at all times, nor do you need constant reporting back. Let go.

  • Don’t motivate, Inspire.

Why would you send out emails at 22h00 expecting an immediate response? Why would you keep a young parent on the phone until twelve at night and expect loyalty?

The best leaders (and those that will succeed in the post-corona environment) are those that inspire trust in their staff. “I trust you to get the job done”, sounds so much better than, “I noticed from the server that you logged out at 16h55”. Inspired staff will get it done because you have enabled and empowered them. You have provided them with clear objectives and you have delegated effectively. The rest falls into place. Do not micromanage, inspire.

  • Move from ego-centric to eco-centric

Staff do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Do you check in with your staff to see how they are feeling? Their world has just exploded and you’re asking for petrol slips? No. An eco-centric leader is inclusive, understands how the broader eco-system is connected and the role they play with others not at others.

You are going to have shift the needle and work out a style that is consistent, fair and predictable. If you’re not sure look up the term authentic leader – you are going to need these skills from yesterday already.

I love Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, who said, “there go my people, I must follow them for I am their leader”.

  • Draw up a new set of standing operating procedures.

True north just shifted. Re-chart your course. Base it on getting the job done. Make it clear. Share it with everyone for comment. Adjust. Implement. Set clear boundaries. Successful leaders get their kicks out of empowering others to achieve their objectives, not telling people what to do and checking whether they worked on Saturday.

If you don’t re-calibrate north you will be left behind. Darwin never said evolution was a case of survival of the fittest. He said those that survive will be those that are best able to adapt. So, adapt. Start by drawing up your operating procedures, circulate them with your staff and find a method that works effectively for all. Get everyone’s buy in – this makes it everyone’s project, not just yours. The days of your staff waiting for you to come down the Mount with tablets are over. Co-create relationships.

  • It is going to be OK.

As mentioned, over twenty years ago I introduced both flexitime and agile working. The result? We increased productivity. Attracted talent on salaries way below the market average. People wanted to work in an environment where they were trusted and had flexibility.

This is not something new. You do not need to do much; technology sees to it. Many people are used to working in what is referred to as the “gig economy”. They are used to working from home. So, utilise this. Maximise the skills involved not the time involved. You don’t want busy staff – you want effective staff. Get a better understanding of what it means to be effective. Embrace it.

  • Find out what’s really bothering you?

Is it grief at losing work rituals ingrained over many years? Does the fear of not getting up, dressing up, showing up – sitting in the traffic listening to yet another prank call, parking in your reserved bay, chatting to staff about Saturday’s game cause you anxiety? For generations this has been the DNA of the workplace. It’s gone.

Grieve if you must but work out where you are in the cycle; denial, anger, depression, acceptance, meaning. Find someone to talk to. The best leaders are present, they self-reflect and internalise before crystallising their thoughts. Then they act. Now is our time. Now is the time for authentic, reassuring, comforting empathetic leadership. We owe it to those we lead. And to ourselves. You got this.

If the above was helpful, or if you would like any further information please contact Saige Business Consulting on info@saige.co.za

Keep a lookout for our webinars launching this week.