Make more money and in less time, Spoiler: Can't be done….
OK, so I thought If I am going to talk about trust and vulnerability, I might as well be put myself out there and be vulnerable myself, watch the video below to see how I came to this point in my life and how I get on with one of the most fearful things a business owner can do.
Make More Money in Less Time
After suffering from depression for several years, but at the same time running a successful managed IT security company, I decided to put myself out there and start speaking at industry events.
At first, I was talking about the issues that business owners go through every day, but how they hide behind their owner masks, and now I talk openly about my fight with depression as a business owner, from the days of ultimate despair to one of never being happier. I’d like to share with you the story of my experience and what I’ve learned.
In the Beginning
Five years ago, I was really unhappy. I was working 70 hours a week and I had staff issues. I couldn't switch off, and it wasn’t in a good way. I felt like I was going backwards. At that stage my business had been going 26 years, so it was a strange thing to think. It wasn’t because the business was unsuccessful or unprofitable, but personally, I felt like I was going backwards.
I was always on the phone. Holidays were a nightmare. My phone used to be next to me on the sunbed. I used to hate holidays, because I’d always end up having to ring the office.
I felt like I was blagging it. People think if you’ve been running a business for as long as I had that I must be really successful, but I didn’t feel that way. I found everything very frustrating.
The Crisis Point
I’d had enough, and I felt suffocated. Suffocated enough that, one morning five years ago, I was driving on the motorway on the way to work. I was in a nice car, I had a nice house, my kids were successful.
10 minutes into my half hour drive I started to cry. I was 46 and crying on the way to work. What the hell? What did I have to cry about? Luckily, my dad's a counsellor, so I rang him and asked what I should do.
He told me to go home and make a doctor’s appointment, so I did. I got an appointment within the hour and the GP had a list of questions to go through with me.
After I completed the test, the doctor asked me if I had a shotgun at home. I assumed he was joking, but he wasn’t. He told me I was clinically depressed, and he was worried I might hurt myself.
It was a massive shock, and I realised I had to take it seriously. I was prescribed some tablets and went home, and then pretty much stayed in bed for six months. I'd go to work for a few hours, but when I got home, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
I then got to the stage where I didn’t care if I didn’t wake up the following day, and I pulled the covers over my head. But the next day, I decided I was going to get my arse out of bed, go back to work and start to get my life back together. One phrase in particular helped me with that: ‘There will come a time when everything is finished. That will be the beginning’.
People who knew me at the time would never have known I was suffering. I used to think it was an owner’s mask we all wear, where we always have to say things are brilliant and going great. We never say, ‘Oh, it’s shit’, because we want our peers to think well of us. Nobody would have heard me say anything negative at all.
I would have never shown anyone how I was feeling, because I would have seen it as a weakness. There's no way I would have ever spoken to any of the people I knew about anything, even individually, because I wouldn’t want to be belittled.
A lot of us wear masks because we worry about the response we’ll get. The national average of people with mental health issues is 70%*. Owners, managers and staff are all wearing masks. *(Mind says the actual number is 25% of people, well of those at admit they are suffering to their doctor, I would suggest that most go in silence)
The Turning Point
I came home one day to find a book I hadn’t ordered had been delivered. ‘The Fred Factor’, by Mark Sanborn, is about a postman who does lots of things for people without asking for anything in return.
Prior to reading it, I was the type of person who wouldn't do anything for somebody without getting something in return. That's what I thought you had to do to be a businessman. If you want to grow the business right, you’ve got to get what you can. But Fred went out of his way to help the people on his post route.
At this time, I had unbelievably low self-esteem, and I still sort of do now. It’s hard for me to get up on stage and speak, but I know that it’s something so important to do, that I'm almost getting a bit of a taste for it. I suffered from unbelievably low self-esteem, but because of my mask, nobody would have never known that.
· Everybody can make a difference
· You must continue to make value for others, and it doesn't have to cost a penny
· We must add value above and beyond our job description
· Success is built on relationships
· Relationships are built on trust
People trusted Fred, because he built that trust with them over the years. I thought, ‘Wow. I'm not like Fred, but he doesn't sound like he's got low self-esteem. He sounds like he's and absolutely stunning guy’. I thought it was all about the money for me. That's what I did; it was about money and that was the thing that drove me.
But Fred wasn't doing it for money, he was doing because he was a good guy. So, I thought, ‘Well, I want to be a good guy that sounds good.’ And that was the start of a new chapter for me.
In ‘Five Dysfunctions of a Team’, Patrick Lencioni states that to you need to build trust through vulnerability. You need to build trust with your team, because as Patrick says, ‘Without having trusting your team, you can’t have conflict. And if you haven't got conflict, you can't have commitment. And if you haven't got commitment, you can't have accountability. And if you don't have accountability, you can't have results’.
If you want success in your business, you need to have trust, running throughout. And that can take time, but the quickest way to build trust is through vulnerability.
We can all be classed as trustworthy, but you have to be vulnerable to be trusted.
As a business owner, when you say you're going to do something, you have to do it, because otherwise it’s a really quick way to lose trust. You have to be vulnerable to one person at a time. It's so much more powerful to do this in a one to one at work.
It’s about the words we use and how we show up. It’s about being honest, and above all about being ourselves. We shouldn’t attempt to be somebody that we not. And the masks that we all wear aren’t us, the masks ae what we think other people want to see of us, or what we think they want us to be.
The first thing you've got to do as a leader is to lead. That’s why you’re called a leader! It's about going first, because you can't expect your staff to be vulnerable to you first and then you’ll be vulnerable back. You've got to be first.
Trust in Teams
What do you think would happen if you had trust in your workplace?
Your staff would feel included
They’d work as a team
You’d all know each other's strengths and weaknesses, because people would be prepared to tell you their weakness.
You will have a newfound openness and honesty in the workplace
Staff will feel empowered and staff retention will increase
The workplace will be a caring environment
You have to be honest when you can’t do something, and let the staff do it instead.
It’s Not About the Money
You think it's about money. It's not. In the last four years, I've reduced my working hours at ATG from 70 hours to 26. I’ve had no loss of staff for four years, and before that we were losing stuff all the time.
We had a 24% increasing turnover last year, and a 110% net profit increase. I’m now allowing people to do the job that they're paid to do. Because we've got trust. And if you think of Patrick Lencioni’s pyramid, we can't hit the figures if we haven't got trust.
The best thing in the world for me, out of all of this, is that I’m the happiest I’ve been for years. I'm earning less money than I did five or six years ago, because we were a much bigger company then, but I know where I’d rather be. I’d rather be where I am now, happiest spreading the word now about trust and what a difference it makes to you and your workforce, because it's not about the money.
Trust is the number one leadership competency skill that’s needed today. Trust builds people into teams, but it takes time. I've been doing this now for years, and I've probably only got it right for the last two.
It's going to take time to achieve this, but you can learn to do it. The biggest reason their employees don't trust their management is because the management don't trust their employees. You need to speak to them.
Business innovation stops if you don't have trust, but flourishes when you do. The IT industry is moving so quickly that we’ve got to change. We’ve got to be looking to innovate all the time and curve jump to whatever the next new thing is, because otherwise our businesses will die.
Sitting down with people, being honest and being yourself doesn't cost anything at all. We can all be considered trustworthy, but you've got to be vulnerable to truly be trusted.
How do you start? The first thing you've got to do is recognise some of the things I’ve mentioned and admit to yourself, to take your mask off for two minutes and look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ It’s not hard, but it's a lot of soul searching. But when you come out the other end, you'll have a much stronger business and you'll be a lot happier.