The vital importance & value of people

People really are the core of your success, so treat them as such. One of the most successful people-development tips I learnt and tried came from a business book I had read in transit, though initially I thought it manipulative and icky.

I spent nearly five hours on a flight handwriting individual cards to each employee, cards that were specific congratulations for great performance and outstanding contribution. I carefully wrote a message of encouragement for achieving more in a particular area and ended each one on a positive note of thanks. Despite my initial reaction to the author’s suggestion the time seemed right, and I put all these individually selected cards in each person’s in-tray on the same day. I remember as if it was yesterday the resounding responses to my private, carefully constructed missives. Some people cried, some laughed, some quietly reflected, some chatted to me like never before and some wrote similarly constructive and encouraging notes back. The power of the pen does indeed remain much mightier than that of a sodding email.

People are not numbers and should be treated as individuals. Nevertheless, individuals should also have responsibility for their behaviour in the company, and providing clear understanding of expectations from the outset is important.

It’s amazing – priceless in my opinion – the advantage which businesses can gain if their people just ask those with more knowledge and experience rather than pretending that they know everything. There are a lot of people in this world who want to go directly from A to B but they’re terrified to ask directions for how to get there. I ask and ask, and I keep asking.

In this process of learning you’re putting yourself more in control of your own business, and you’re challenging yourself, taking yourself out of your comfort zone. One of the reasons Pacific Direct developed a hugely successful team and company culture was, I think, because I challenged people to stretch themselves all the time. During breaks we discussed the challenges and opportunities of the day and shared learning. Individuals across all facets of the company would be asked to stand up, move to the front of the room and present their progress – and gradually the whole team could stand and talk to anyone in public.

People don’t drive to work thinking they’re going to deliberately annoy those they encounter during the day; almost all people are willing to educate and teach others. Always look to be progressive and challenging and allow your team to step up in the same way as you drive yourself. Failure comes from those who do not build momentum all around them. A classic example is the small business owner whose business fails because he or she is too controlling and unable to build solid, trusted and talented players across the business. So ask. Think about it from the other person’s point of view. If somebody says to you, ‘Treat me like an idiot’, you know that person is being open and genuine. As long as you approach people in the right way – in a humble, gracious, interested, enthusiastic and respectful manner – then you can have anything.

People are critical to success, and that’s people both inside and outside the company. Your team have much more to give you than you could possibly give them. If you can break down the barriers of hierarchy, be approachable and consistent and persuade them relentlessly to play as team contributors – utilising great ideas and celebrating them as coming from someone within the team – then you will harness power and succeed much faster.

Lara Morgan is one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs, and the Founder of Company Shortcuts, a consultancy dedicated to excellence in sales and leadership. Company Shortcuts offer innovative products, services and exciting events that have already inspired hundreds of ambitious business leaders to achieve accelerated growth. For more information visit