You don’t need me to tell you, its tough out there.  Many businesses that I come across are struggling to adjust to the new rules of business and a few are still realising that many of the old ways of running a business simply don’t work anymore, but, old habits die hard.

I’m seeing a disappointing return to purely tactical focus and its hard to persuade the companies heading in this direction and whose priority is to pay this month’s wage bill, that  it’s a dead-end street.  A still more worrying trend I am witnessing though is towards whip-cracking.  Much as I sympathise with the desperation of managers who simply don’t understand why the approaches they have used successfully for years to build or run a business don’t work in the era of new model marketing, flogging your staff is the desperate last twitch of management that has already failed.  High-pressure tactics like this are doomed to failure in both the long and the short-term.

I overheard a conversation last week where a middle manager was bemoaning the loss of the “good old days”.  “I remember …” he said “… the days when, if I was out of the office for a day, I’d return to find my stuff all pushed to one end of my desk because someone had been dancing on it!”.  Extreme perhaps, but there are offices throughout England where the atmosphere is so dour and depressing that its hard to imagine that this kind of thing once happened in successful businesses.

My mind goes back to a quote by Tom Peters in one of his early presentation where he begged business leaders to ask themselves if there was a spring in their employees’ step as they walked across the parking lot from their car to the office each morning, saying “If there isn’t, it’s your fault!”.  His overarching point being that unless employees are happy and enthusiastic about their work, your business will fail.

How many organisations, who today are battling to put together a business strategy that works under the new rules, are paying attention to the absolutely vital element of employee engagement?  Without the backing and buy-in of employees, no business will stand a chance of delivering its brand promise, and when you fail at that you’ve just failed!

For those tempted to respond with “… but we never did any of this stuff before”, I’ll underline what I have said earlier and many times before – If you got away with this omission in the past, it was only because the competition (despite what you may have thought then) wasn’t that tough.  Now its “game on” and there’s no room for slack.  No business can afford this level of inefficiency and, believe me, trying to deliver a promise without having first secured the committment of your employees is inefficient in the extreme.

If you think its par for the course for managers to be hated by employees, forget it!  If you confuse respect for you as a manager with distant or non-existing relationships with your staff you need to take a reality check.  Successful businesses have always had figureheads who employees are happy to stand behind – Richard Branson, Bill Muirhead, Maurice and Charles Saatchi, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Steve Jobs … I could make a long list, but you get the idea.  Developing and leveraging relationships like these are all part of the internal marketing task.  Don’t side-step the issue.  These internal “brandships” are the key to the “brandships” you have with customers and that’s what drives your business.  When you need all the help you can get to keep afloat, the last thing you should do is abandon your internal relationship-building, so double-check your marketing strategy to ensure you are doing all you can to get your employees dancing on the tables!

Michael Weaver
January 16, 2011

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