25 October 2015

Being a manager can be an incredibly rewarding job. It can also be incredibly difficult.

In my opinion, part of the role of being at the head of a company is to ensure that you are in touch with every area of the business and that they know that you’re accessible whenever your team needs help. As a business grows this can become more and more challenging. I used to pride myself on knowing every member of my team by name, however as we’ve hit 250 employees, it fair to say that it’s getting increasingly difficult to remember everyone but I will certainly keep trying.

I try to stay in the loop with every team but often it is the areas that are struggling the most that I spend the most time with. That means that those performing well might spend less time with me than they normally would. We identify areas that aren’t working and work with them to work out how to improve, one area at a time. This can invariably mean that some departments or teams don’t have direct contact with me as much as others. Whilst we celebrate and praise extraordinary work and great achievements, I have to admit that, often like with children, the issues that shout the loudest get the most attention!second fiddle

It’s certainly one to be aware of.

So how do you make sure that it’s not demotivating your team?

The employee engagement surveys that we carry out show the value in having direct contact with the board and the CEO of a company. As the person in that role, I try to meet this with our Monday morning meeting. This is an idea similar to that of James Timpson’s weekly Town Hall meetings and Google’s kick-starter meetings.

At the start of every week we bring everyone from the company together – that’s all of the Manchester team in the auditorium and the other locations via Skype, we record them for anyone who couldn’t make it at the time too. By having everyone together we keep that transparency, those open lines of communication, and it gives me that contact with the team.

I believe that it is extraordinarily important to be seen and to be a real, hands-on part of the business, not just a person in a suit on the other side of an office door. You should never underestimate the value of one-on-one communication with your team; there’s significant value in a chat on the stairs or at the coffee machine. That’s why recently I have moved my desk down onto the live sales floor. I miss the energy and buzz of the phones, of the team striving to hit targets and to give the best service to our clients. It is also why we hold our Friends and Family events, and go on as many trips together as we can – whether that’s climbing Mount Snowdon or skiing in Switzerland.

If you’re not in a position to throw the more extravagant team building trips like these – or like our Zoofari Day and cinema nights – you could take inspiration from our early days. Long ago we introduced Beer Friday. Half an hour before the end of the week, we all have a beer together to celebrate the week gone by and kickstart the weekend. This started with one crate shared between us, quickly growing into the ‘Beer Trolley’ as the team grew, before the UKFast Campus Bar that we have in the office now. Before that we would take the whole team for fish and chips every Friday dinner.

To me, the UKFast team is a family. Getting to know everyone personally and building lasting friendships is one of the greatest parts of being in business. And whilst it isn’t always possible with every member of the team, there’s no reason why we can’t keep trying.

The challenge for me is ensuring that the teams that are performing don’t feel that they fall second fiddle to the ones who aren’t performing but are getting more time from senior management. Whilst it might not feel like it, it is actually a compliment if I don’t spend every day with a team, it means they’re excelling! It is a challenge that I am still trying to figure out the answer to and a balance I am trying to find, and it once again comes down to time. If we had infinite time, we could spend it with every person in the company!

Let me know how you manage your time with your team in the comments below. I would love to know how you get on.

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