“Managing people is more complicated than rocket science.”

I’ve always loved that saying as anyone who leads an organisation normally identifies with it. Its origins (I believe) were from a former rocket scientist who had a career change and went into HR, then swiftly back to science!

Getting organisations to function amongst the complexities of modern life is becoming increasingly harder. Your narrative is now amongst social media updates where the drama of the world noisily competes with your organisational objectives, time is at a premium as people do more with less and the collective consciousness is one of unpredictability, given the economic mood music.

Keeping people focused, contributing, attentive, connected, aligned, agile and feeling valued is high up on the agenda of many organisational leaders. Keeping energy and attention levels high is a challenge, I’ve resorted to some old jedi ways of ensuring people feel connected to the top of late, here are a few examples of things I’ve been doing for the last twelve months:
o Having my business card blown up to the size of a postcard so that I can send handwritten notes to people, congratulating success or personal life events.
o Sending everyone in the company a handwritten card on their birthday.
o Hosting a weekly coffee morning where I discover hidden talents and underpin messaging.
o Regularly updating the business on our issues, good and bad through blogs and face to face meetings.
o Meeting every single new person that starts with the company to set expectations on day one of what excellence looks like.

To do this, I’ve had to re-prioritise my time, to use technology more efficiently (example using web conferencing more), to delegate more, to create a stop doing list and to ensure I have time to think about our future and what culture we need to support it.

It reminds me of a story I heard some years ago of a household name IT vendor who surveyed their channel partners about how accessible/approachable they were. The answer came back “very poor”. So, they set about building a web portal, investing hundreds of thousands investing in a technology solution to solve the problem. The following year the answer was the same “very poor”, despite this huge investment. Why? Because people defined communication as human interaction, not another comms platform based upon interacting via a keyboard. Big lesson there.

I’m a technology lover, I’d have to be to do my day job. Technology is there for us to make positive and informed choices about how we spend our time. I’ve further upped my use of I.T. to release me to spend more time with people. The results are there, we should make a new record for numbers and the staff survey has come back with my personal leadership score the highest it’s ever been.
Managing people can be complicated, that’s for sure. However, its one whole lot easier if you are being the genuine, authentic version of you, taking evidence based decisions with compassion and telling your stories good and bad to the people around you by treating them as human beings. Make time, simplify and get back to basics are my top tips if you are leading your business back into the light. See you out there.

Phil Jones is UK Head of Information, Communication and Technology business – Brother UK Ltd. He can be found on Twitter @philjones40 and writes a leadership blog at www.philjones.biz.