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The 20-plus years of running this business and the 10 or so years prior when I had the chance to start my career under some incredible mentors have been a learning opportunity all the way. At the end of the day, I’ve learned success is all about people – no matter how excellent your product and technology is or how deep your financial resources are. Here’s what I’ve learned over time about managing a business’ most important asset. Its P.E.O.P.L.E 

Have fun.

Yep. An eight-hour work day means we spend a lot of time together. More time than we might spend with family it feels sometimes.  So, we need circuit breakers. A few laughs – and here at HC it’s at ourselves mostly. It’s important to keep asking … when did we last laugh?     

Tap into superpowers.

We all have them. And when someone is working to their best and ultimate superpower (it might be creativity, problem solving, being a great organiser) an employee feels happy and fulfilled and it builds success. While some superpowers might seem outside of what is required for a particular role at times – when you can find a way to apply it – it sure becomes a sweet spot.   

There’s opportunity in flexibility.

We’ve offered a flexible workplace since day dot – in fact, I created the business wanting flexibility for myself. It’s not always easy working flexibility into a busy deadline-driven business with client demands, but we’ve found that making it work delivers in spades.  

Recruit for attitude not skill.

When we focus on skills and experience that we think look good on paper and don’t focus on attitude and culture fit, we stumble. Skills can be learnt – a good attitude and innate energy and ability to commit is something that you have or you don’t.  

Set your rhythm and rituals

Weeks get busy – time marches on. Something that’s worked well for us is setting up a regular rhythm of how we work together. We have Monday huddles and mid-week WIPS. And we always have a team lunch once a week. Creating these signposts in the week where can come together and learn, and brainstorm and track our progress, is key.   

Head up or head down.

Processes and work routines get pretty ingrained. This level of consistency is important for business; it’s what holds us accountable and keeps things running smoothly and helps us know what to expect of each other. But sometimes we can become too formulaic. When we work in a creative business like this and in an environment with lots of change it’s important to not just be …head down. Encourage your people to ramble, get outside their comfort zone and the regular ways of working so they can see opportunity.  

Let your passion show.

Passion is infectious. If as a leader your people can’t see your passion how can you expect them to follow you into the trenches? How do you expect them to know that what they are doing is worth doing? You can inspire your staff into new ways of working and overcoming challenges more easily, if the passion is super clear.  

Be vulnerable

Old visions of leadership about power are dead. We have a pretty flat structure in our business and while we have roles, we try to create a balance of equals. Vulnerability in leadership enables you to gain the trust of and be more effective with your people. This looks like – admitting you don’t have all the answers, apologising when you need to and asking for help. If you are looking for a good read on the strength of vulnerable leadership, you can’t go past Brene Brown’s book Dare to Lead.  One of my all-time faves.  

Accountability stops here.

It was a lesson I learnt early on and has stuck with me my entire career. The buck ultimately stops with the leader. Yes, individuals need to be accountable and deliver in their role – but if they don’t, somewhere back down the line there was something lacking. A failed process, poor procedure or system, lack of training or feedback, fear and the list goes on. When a challenge or issue arises, I always examine my role as leader first to create a safe place to discuss, resolve and grow. 

Sue Hardman