Lockdown Winners:

How the best commercial leaders in the world are enabling their teams to flourish

As the MD of HiPP Organic, John Allaway knew in March 2020 his Reading-based business was facing double jeopardy. Brexit was about to impact HiPP’s cross-European supply chain, and the pandemic meant some key staff simultaneously needing to home- school and manage their teams remotely

This article aims to provoke your thinking in three distinct areas. • How are you keeping yourself fresh and fit to lead? • How clear are you that your people are in a good place, mentally and physically? • How will you create a lasting legacy of success?

One remarkable lockdown statistic is that 63% of the UK’s working population (that’s two in every three of your staff) have considered changing jobs in the past year*. A period of confusion, coupled with a furlough-impacted workforce has given everyone time to reflect deeply about what we really want.

John Allaway reflected: “Parents on planes are asked to put their oxygen masks on first. I knew that getting myself clear-headed and energised mattered for my company’s success. My first step was to sign up for the Uspire network led by entrepreneur Colin Wright. This included monthly peer-to-peer ‘Think Tanks’, regular provocation from expert speakers and Colin as my coach.”

The members were guided to create a business plan for the pandemic’s four ‘Seasons’ and to invest more time on connecting meaningfully

with staff. Lockdown winners are those businesses recognising that a flourishing team gives a competitive edge. It means making beneficial adjustments to work protocols and to managerial behaviours.

Wright’s ‘SUCCESS’ model (see chart below) enables a people-centred and pandemic-proof strategy. Notice how the first step focuses on what is ‘significant’ for all stakeholders. The template requires leaders to involve their teams in each segment before creating detailed plans. Read more: Grow with SUCCESS

As a result of his own SUCCESS planning, Allaway invested in external coaches for his leadership team too. Emma Rossington, HiPP head of commercial and a home-schooling parent welcomed this. “An outside-in view of any situation always helps,” she noted.

A common misconception is that leaders need to know all the answers. Smart leaders realise that asking for help is not a sign of weakness and that trusting their team to know the ‘how’ once the ‘what to do’ is clarified, is an essential element of developing a winning culture.

A stressed leader often reflects that “I’m really busy,” when in fact they are over-stressed.

This lessens their ability to notice stress in other people. The Health and Safety Executive specify some clear indicators of stress, including:

• more arguments • having task-only meetings • increased staff turnover • decreased performance • more complaints and grievances (many not shared).

The benefit of a peer-to-peer network was brought into sharp focus for John Allaway in two specific sessions:

One guest speaker, Lynn Leahy shared the causes, symptoms and relievers of stress. Then, when a post-Brexit tax on milk products threatened supply to HiPP’s Irish consumers, Allaway chaired his own ‘Member needs you’ discussion. “Sharing the pain of a difficult situation with experienced commercial leaders gave me re- assurance we were on the right track.”

By applying the principles of self- improvement first, then providing ’more oxygen’ for his team, Allaway has created a clear succession path for his business.

This leaves all of us as leaders with two key questions to contemplate:

What are you doing actively to develop your awareness and personal health as a leader?

How are you helping your teams to flourish?

Mark Francis

* London Business School October 2020

Mark Francis is an international speaker on ‘finding leadership’. Other Network members with John include leaders from FE fundInfo (Reading) Birds Eye (Feltham) and CooperVision (Fareham).

Mark Francis

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