Jul 28 2020| Leadership

Where Doesn't Matter, It's Why That Counts

A crucial insight for flexible working

by Phil Eyre Founder

If the last three months have shown us anything, it’s that we can work far more flexibly than we thought, even in non-office sectors, including manufacturing. However, in my opinion, whilst organising where our people work is necessary, we run the risk of missing something far more important.


It’s not where we all work that matters, it’s why.


  • Why does the business even exist?
  • How are other people’s lives improved as a result of the effort, skill and energy that you and your colleagues are putting in?
  • Why should your people give their best waking hours to the organisation that you lead?


Great leaders inspire their people towards compelling objectives. Paying the bills is an important baseline motivation. But it’s only a base. For people to give discretionary effort, they need meaningful, even joy-inducing, objectives.


Why go the extra mile if that mile takes you nowhere interesting?


For some, this is closely connected with the ambitions of the business. Are we here just to get paid, or are we making a tangible difference? For others, connecting with what makes life meaningful is closer to home.


I never fail to be keenly inspired by brilliant working parents who manage to invest themselves with passion into both their work and their homes. Good leaders know how to connect what motivates their people personally with the needs of their business.


There is no upper limit to the power of empathy, nor to the devastating impact on team morale of insensitive and uncaring leaders.


Now, more than ever, leaders need to reaffirm and perhaps reassess the ‘why’ of their organisations and their people. Otherwise, too much focus on day-to-day management - like over-crafting flexible working policies - could make us blind to new opportunities or new risks. 


‘Why?’ is often the most provocative and challenging question that we at Leaders put to our clients. This seemingly simple and mundane question takes us straight to the core purpose of the organisation. It is also inherently outward-looking, focused on who we serve and the impact we make.


If, during the recent and understandable focus on practical ‘business as usual’ matters, you have lost sight of the purpose of your work, now is the time to take stock.


Happily, there are business leaders in our islands who work hard to stay out of the weeds and keep a determined focus on the future. This is enabling:


  • Acquisition opportunities.
  • Accelerating the building of new service lines, reallocating resources from products in terminal decline.
  • Surprising operational efficiencies, creating some quick wins for the bottom line.
  • Reshaping leadership teams, opening opportunities for people to step up to the C-Suite.
  • Rapidly building ESG capability, which is not only widening customer reach but arguably making a lasting impact on the world.


In every case, where people are working is secondary to why.


You can find more of my insights into working from home, flexible work and getting back to the office in the August edition of Business Brief.

About The Author | Phil Eyre

Phil is Leaders’ founder. He has an enthusiastic and inspiring style, drawing on his experience in business, academia and social sectors to help any leadership team to achieve phenomenal performance. Phil has significant expertise in sophisticated psychometrics and in the application of human data for individual, team and organisational success. He has trained with and been mentored by, global leaders in this field, notably Dr Chuck Coker in the US. Phil began his career in the UK offshore finance industry in 1994, working for a wealth management company, Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil was head of the company's Guernsey division, with a staff of 120 and assets under management of £4.5billion before resigning from executive responsibilities in 2008. Since launching Leaders in 2017, Phil has worked with many senior executives and boards primarily in the Channel Islands and City of London. He regularly writes for a variety of business publications and is often invited to speak at events for institutions such as the IoD and the British Army. Phil works closely with clients on focussed projects and long-term retainers to raise leadership standards. He is a popular and inspiring educator and coach who, with the insights gained from psychometrics, is able to accurately detect the strengths and weaknesses in leadership teams and boards. Phil has served on the boards of various charities, ran the Guernsey hub of a national theology college, received accreditation as a pastor in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and is accredited in various motivation and behavioural techniques.

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