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This is my final post about employee engagement at LifeSearch – everyone’s a leader. If we could bottle the culture here, every organisation would have staff achieving their true potential.

I am passionate about leadership, and I think there is a shortage of great leaders. In a world where we’ve reduced our jobs and companies to the achievement of statistics, management seems to have overtaken leadership.

When we develop leaders, we use the Leadership model known as The Five Leadership Practices *. It’s the world’s most robust model of leaders and each time I run the initial exercise – think of an inspirational leader and describe what they do – the behaviours fall into 5 practices.

Anthony Andreoli, Adviser and Protection Specialist at LifeSearch, and Duncan McMillan, L&D Manager, spoke with me about the daily behaviours of leadership at LifeSearch.

Modelling the way

Every great leader knows their values, and models the values. An example is if you value time keeping in others, you must role model getting to meetings, to work, and being on time yourself.

Anthony shared how the five values of the company were discussed by staff in focus groups to say ‘How do we live these values?’ – They are now aided by the 31 practices. So every day you live a value. He showed me that day’s, which was “I GSD!” or “I get shit done!”.

“How many companies say they are open, but are not? You cover up if you disagree, or are feeling annoyed. Here, I have challenged decisions I think are unfair. I’ve openly discussed my thoughts and feelings on our intranet, in ‘Talks with Tom’ (Baigrie, the CEO), I’ve even gone from ranting to having a sparring session with my Manager once to release frustration.

I love it because I can truly be me. We have huddles, and one of my colleagues said ‘I am in a rank mood today’. How many teams achieve that level of openness?”.

Inspiring a shared vision

Great leaders have a vision. They share it, and people join them to achieve that vision.

“We all know why we do what we do.” Duncan says. “In all discussions, we’re asking the same questions. Did we act to help families in their time of need? We want our people – our LifeSearchers – to achieve their purpose. To have a meaningful, prosperous and enjoyable time in being a partner in our success.”.

Anthony says “We are empowered wherever possible: I can pick my own targets and goals. Like being self-employed, if I achieve, I will do well.

CEO Tom Baigrie believes passionately that if you have a share in the company you will want to nurture it as your own and therefore treat your customers in the best possible way.  After three years you are eligible for a ‘Partnership payment’ a bit like the John Lewis partnership model, and it fits my own life vision.

I want to work for the best, we all do. It means we share in the successes.”

Challenging the process

Great leaders encourage people to do things differently, take risks and challenge.

Anthony was enthusiastic about how many opportunities there are to challenge how things are done.

“Change is encouraged at LifeSearch from day one.

The range of opportunities here makes sure we all have a voice in how we do things.

There are individual and team incentives and events, one based on a well-known TV programme – The Apprentice is a team event, where we work on various challenges set each week – for example one week the focus could be on which team sells the most; whilst another it might be focussed on a specific product; and just like the TV show, the losing team has three losers to pitch to the panel why they should not be fired!. “This is a competitive opportunity and really gets us working energetically!”

The individual opportunity is Dragons Den – you pitch your idea and if it’s implemented, you receive vouchers. If not, the feedback is given to explain why not.  If any idea submitted is new, LifeSearch also donate some money to the chosen charity even if it is not taken up.

We also have “Pint of Ideas” – we combine the English tradition of having a pint with chatting about ideas for new ways of doing things.

I don’t fear change now. When I reflect on how change was implemented at my old employers, it could be scary if you weren’t involved in it or ‘in the know’. Here, we are drivers of the change. Change, risk, experimenting – it’s what we do on a daily basis.”

Enabling others to act

Great leaders enable individuals to perform at their best by training and developing them effectively. They also encourage team working.

“Our Managers sit alongside us.” Anthony continues. “Previously, I’ve worked in hierarchies, where feedback has been delayed and decision making is slow.

At LifeSearch, we have a flat structure. Decision making, feedback, and communication is easy. Our Managers know what we do, and can respond in the moment.

All of us are trained so well, we know what to do, and who to ask if we don’t know what to do. I know that I will be backed by Managers for doing right by the customer.

Coaching is part of how we work. The coach is always on hand to give and receive feedback. It’s continuous learning to get better at what we do.

My coach is also a mentor – every month we discuss what I enjoy, and whether the role is meeting my own purpose.

Team working is helped by great communication – speed networking, huddles and The Intranet. We know our vision and we share it. Intra team battles, such as the Apprentice, really help us pull together as a team.”

Encouraging the heart

Great leaders make people feel great. From simple things like thanking a person, to taking the time to stop and celebrate the bigger achievements.

We often find leaders think their team are great, but they forget to back that up with actions. Encouraging the heart is about making people feel great about what they do and who they are. Anthony takes this up:

“I’ve never felt part of a success story before. Of course, I’ve had successes in the past – but here it’s different. LifeSearchers are a family. The highs are intense because we’re all in on this. We are developed, challenged, rewarded, and encouraged. My wife and I had the most amazing holiday as a reward for hard work. We get lunches, breakfasts, vouchers, and a share of the profit in the company.

I get a shoulder to cry on, a pat on the back for getting through a tough day, or achieving tough sales targets. I feel valued and motivated. I feel I control my own pay packet – I agreed to come in late a few days in a busy week of personal stuff I needed to do. It’s such a great feeling to know I’m trusted to get my targets achieved. The reward when I’ve enabled our customers to get through a tough life situation is huge, and sharing those stories with our teams helps us feel great.”

Could your leaders benefit from Leadership development? Contact us to discuss how tailored leadership development can turn average leaders into great leaders.

*James M. Kouzes & Barry M Posner – The Leadership Challenge. The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

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