Summer time usually means holidays. Well, not quite. For many small business owners, it often means even more work as your team takes a well-earned break, leaving you to carry on with the heavy lifting.
In the beginning, we (my brother, who is co-founder, and I) rarely took more than a few days leave, a week being the maximum time off and even then we’d often be working, always on, worrying about missing opportunities or worse, a major client thinking we’d taken the eye off the ball.
Mobile devices make it even easier to be tempted to digitally clock in and check out what should have been left behind in the office. Technology is amazingly liberating, but without discipline it can also chain you to the continual drumbeat of work when you should actually be relaxing. We only recently started turning off push notifications for work emails on mobiles so you only receive notifications when you search – rather than seeing them every time you look at your phone.
Ten years on from setting up Blueprint with my brother Adam and I finally just took a three-week August holiday with my family. This is partly because my wife is between jobs and doesn’t start until the beginning of September – so a rare opportunity for both of us to to get away with the children. Switching off is vital as long as you have someone you trust to manage the office.
And it is business teamwork that is really the focus of this first diary entry. American psychologist Abraham Maslow identified, in “A Theory of Human Motivation”, that groups provide us with a sense of belonging. He believed that there is a hierarchy of human needs – from physiological (for example, hunger and thirst), to security, and then a sense of belonging. If the latter is addressed, individuals are able to zero in on other things such as achieving your potential, and applied to the workplace, it means employees are more effective, collaborative and creative.
That’s the key I think to our success so far. We have both worked in too many environments where people manage through fear and not by example. Collaboration has always been the operative word at Blueprint, allowing team members to take decisions for themselves and enabling them to get things done. As American management expert Ken Blanchard put it: “None of us is as smart as all of us.”
“Kaizen” is the Japanese concept of continual improvement. Our projects are far more likely to stay on track when members of the team are supporting each other, something we try to encourage. Any individual shortcomings are balanced out and individual strengths are amplified within the team. People then feel less exposed and are more inclined, hopefully, to contribute and take risks. In turn, the theory is that we’ll produce better results for our clients.
It has taken time to create the right environment and develop great business teamwork but trust has been core along with sharing a strong desire to produce high quality work. Acknowledging and praising both group and individual performance is crucial to sustaining motivation.
It’s Blueprint’s teamwork that has, I believe, enhanced job satisfaction, meaning we have kept many of our original staff, have an incredibly low absenteeism rate, and ultimately it has boosted our bottom line. This also means I can now take a holiday without checking in everyday.