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Making friends on the way up...

By John Archer. Published on 9 March 2016

When I was a young and energetic finance manager, my wise boss Brian said to me ‘make sure that you make friends on the way up because you’ll certainly need them on the way down’….. At the time I was working in the EMEA headquarters of a U.S. multinational and I remembered those words two weeks later when Ron, the SVP Europe, who was not known for his people skills, was fired and poor Ron was out on his ear before he knew it.

Fifteen years on from then, I was again working for a U.S. multinational based in Toronto, but by now I had switched a career in finance for a recruitment career – a move that has proved very kind to me.

This was the 1990s and my boss, Dan was an American with great people skills. Apart from his penchant for 7.30 breakfast meetings, I really enjoyed working for Dan. He paid me compliments which I loved (!) he worked hard and so I worked hard, he showed me respect and so I showed him respect. As I prepared to relocate back to the UK, Dan asked me ‘what can I do for you to help you prepare for your return?’  He flew me up to his office in the Mid-West and gave up his valuable time to support me in any way that he could.

I keep in contact with Dan just once a year via LinkedIn and I hear that he has a role which he loves. After a stellar career which saw him leading teams of up to 300 staff, his employer has granted his wish and allowed him to slow down and now in his 60s, he has a role which suits him perfectly.

By making friends on the way up, and upholding these values through his career, Dan has a role he continues to find rewarding many years on.

Although Dan was not a visionary, he was a good leader and an excellent line manager. Here are 5 of the key attributes of a good people manager that I saw in Dan:

  • Honesty and integrity. He showed respect to the people around him and was authentic – what you saw was what you got with Dan.
  • He had a healthy level of “emotional intelligence” – he recognised how emotions impact performance, how to read people and respond accordingly.
  • Dan struck a good balance between being “hands on” and with trusting people in his teams to get on with things themselves – he empowered his people to step up and take on greater autonomy.
  • Dan was consistent in his approach to managing his teams. He set high standards, was fair and he knew how and when to get tough and say “no”.
  • He was an effective “talent spotter” and was able to develop his teams to fulfil their full potential.

Here is a 5 point check list of your leadership style:

  • What does authenticity mean to you? How do you demonstrate it?
  • Do you practise ‘reading people’ or just listen to their words? Look out for body language, facial expressions and tone of voice.
  • Can you give your people more autonomy? If so, do so and get on with your own priorities.
  • Fairness and consistency are pillars of great leadership – do a self-check here – were your last important decisions fair and did they make sense for the business?
  • Stay open and curious – both about your existing teams and about potential new recruits. What makes them tick? Are you always looking for new or emerging talent?

If you are interested in hearing more about our experience of what makes an exceptional leader, please contact me on 01753 303 600 or email john.archer@etonbridgepartners.com

John Archer                                                                                                                                        Senior Partner                                                                                     john.archer@etonbridgepartners.com