January 2, 2017 - 10:00 AM

Just About Managing

Before I became a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language, I spent over 30 years as a Lawyer. And, for the greater part of that time, I was also the guy in charge of the whole operation.

As with the majority of bosses of SMEs, I had to do so much more than be good at my chosen profession. In addition to actually generating income (forgive the split infinitive; the rule is that this is always allowed when I do it) I had ‘to get down and dirty’ with everything from envelopes to IT upgrades; from staff tensions to bank statements; from documentation storage to regulatory compliance. I always took my turn clearing up the kitchen of soggy teabags and coffee spills, and was on first name terms with most of the workers at the local waste recycling unit. My management style – such as it was – relied heavily on ‘mucking in’! 

One of the more egregiously obvious pronouncements in management consultancy is that ‘employees are a company’s greatest asset’. Yet some of the larger Law Firms with which I was familiar (no names, no pack drill) overtly made reference in Management Board meetings to ‘sweating the asset’ – that is, working staff to the limit in order to achieve maximum profitability. I regarded this attitude as not only inhuman but also as being of entirely dubious logic. For instance, my personal assistants would ask me several times a year if they could work through their one hour lunch break and then leave work one hour early in order to make some appointment or other. My answer was invariably: ‘No. You can take your one hour lunch break AND leave one hour early’. And as a result of this tiny gesture of kindness, those girls would come in early or work late if necessary without even being asked – probably doing more hours overall than if I had taken them up on their offer.

I am not for one moment proclaiming myself to be some sort of management genius. To me it is self-evident that the better one treats staff, and the more personally one interacts with them, the happier and more productive they will be. Those companies and executives who think that business has no place for human sentiment are ‘missing a trick’. Because, as far as one’s employees are concerned, you only get out what you ‘muck in’!

Rory, LOS Consultant

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