Richard Branson’s Secrets to Leadership
Employees Come First
“If you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your customers, and your customers will take care of your shareholders.”
The classic adage, “customers come first,” is tossed out at Virgin, and replaced with an employee-first mindset. Branson understands that in any business value chain, nothing happens until employees do something. And hopefully do something great.
“Businesses are nothing more than a group of people, and they are by far and away your biggest assets. In fact, in probably the majority of businesses your people are your product.”
Great leaders understand the Engagement Profit Chain, a term coined by Kevin Kruse as a variation on the Service Profit Chain model.
To paraphrase Branson, if you engage your employees, they provide better service to your customers (along with more productivity and loyalty), which increases customer satisfaction and in turn drives higher sales and profits. All of that will eventually increase shareholder value.
Do you truly value your human capital? How much time do you invest recruiting, coaching and retaining star performers.
“We find brilliant people to run it, give them a lot of freedom to make mistakes, and don’t second guess them all the time.”
The ability to delegate effectively is critical to leadership for two important reasons:
1) It enables you to get more done by leveraging the time and ability of others
2) It increases the engagement of your team members
Too often, people are promoted from a position of “individual contributor” to leader/manager and don’t fully recognize that what earned them the promotion—hard work, attention to detail, devotion to perfection, roll-up the sleeves problem solving—isn’t what will achieve success as a manager.
Managers are measured on the total output of their teams. And by micro-managing the details, the big picture and long-term prospects are ignored.
“I immerse myself in getting the businesses set up and am very involved the first three or four months, get good people to run them, give them a stake in the company and a lot of freedom, and then step back and move on to the next.”
In Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, he shares compelling research that workers won’t be fully motivated unless they experience autonomy, mastery and purpose. The boss who constantly looks over others’ shoulders will disengage team members. By granting true autonomy, individuals take ownership of the outcomes, and achieve growth and pride along the way.
“If your best people aren’t growing in their careers as your business gains traction and expand, they will quickly lose enthusiasm for their work. And before you know it, you’ll be dealing with unsatisfied customers as well as unsatisfied employees.”