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The Daily Paradox

The Daily Paradox: Nice & Tough

Someone who worked for me nearly forty years ago responded to my article “We can’t be nice anymore” saying ‘How was it that you managed to be both nice and tough, John?’ Thank you for the generous compliment, Francis*. You have raised an important question. The thoughts behind my approach to handling people are these:

[1] Let them be as independent and self-sufficient as possible. Successful colleagues stand on their own feet, not their boss’s. Don’t give them lots of nit-picking trivial rules to obey. Insist on standards, not processes.

[2] Give them plenty of your time. They are the most valuable assets you have; treat them as such. For the first six months in a job I had my secretary lock me OUT of my office from 9.30 to 4.00 each Monday to Thursday. That way I spent time with people, not with admin.

[3] Reward generously and make the high bonus part of their rewards depend on them achieving the targets THEY have set. The higher the target the better the bonus – but only if they achieved it. This is a very tough rule as there are NO excuses for not reaching the target. Failure to achieve it means no bonus but lunch with me and a box of tissues for tears.

If you’d like to know more details of how this works please ask me.

[4] Award stock options that are cashable only after five years. It focuses your colleagues minds on future results.

[5] About once every two years fire a very senior person – with reason, of course. Your Teddy Bear management style takes on a new angle when you do.

[6] Publish all wages and terms of employment for every person in the business including yourself. If someone asks you why they aren’t paid the same as another employee, ask them back. It’s even more important that they know than that you do.

[7] Abandon most formal meetings. They waste time and are generally unproductive. Instead, drop in on your colleagues and ask what are the opportunities and problems. Call in others if needed. Sort out the answer then and there. You save 70% of your time – and theirs.

[8] Turn fellow workers’ mistakes into lessons, not hell. Say ‘thank you’ when something is well done.

[9] When a fellow employee has a personal crisis, be kind and generous. Not because you expect them to reciprocate but because you are a decent person. How you care for people who work with you significantly defines who you are. It is your character mirror.

[10] Make humour an important part of your management style. Laughter lightens the load and frees the minds from worry allowing them to be creative.

It’s not rocket science, just common sense.

And being human.

Good morning

John Bittleston

*The name has been changed in case she didn’t want to be identified.

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3 March 2024