Who Are You Listening To

Who Are You Listening To?

As the late great Maya Angelou reminded us, “Not everyone remembers what you said, but everyone remembers how you made them feel.”

The progressive senior executives I have the privilege of coaching appear to have a current common theme, that they care strongly about the ‘trickle down’ effect of their actions. This has stemmed from a much more inclusive approach to leadership.

Severe disruptions to businesses supply chains, due to the pandemic, has forced senior leaders to rethink and transform how they structure and manage the selected suppliers. Perhaps as importantly, for the inclusive leaders, it is an opportunity to consider how they treat suppliers. This demands a much better understanding of all their suppliers.

In one of our coaching sessions, I asked how Richard felt performance was going, given that construction has been one of the worst affected sectors, when it comes to supply chain problems. Candidly, he shared how he’d been spending most of his time visiting and listening to suppliers, rather than solely driving his supplier’s KPIs.

In order to make things work, there are many more suppliers than normal, the sub-contracting element means the use of a variety of small, locally operating businesses.

This might mean a work group on a construction site for some time might opportunistically bring their specialist skills together and form a small business.

This might be up to 15 friends, or even less. It makes good commercial sense, with a view to bringing in regular and more secure work.

They have to be committed and hardworking, but they live relatively ‘hand to mouth’ compared to the big businesses that contract them the work.

Having listened and reflected on what the suppliers were able to share with him in person, it soon became clear just how devastating the pandemic had been on the individuals, particularly those leading, these small but important operators. When work halted and the UK went into lockdown, they still had rent and mortgages to pay, children to provide for and bearing all the financial risks associated of running a company during times of serious uncertainty.

By having a better understanding, Richard could more accurately ‘walk in their shoes’. He took immediate action. Payment terms were made more flexible, despite the impact on cash flow, Richard knew the huge importance of this move and the mutual benefit to be gained. It was not an easy call, but the right thing to do.

Richard had engaged with them, listened to them, and acted on what they had said – this builds trust. In the following months, performance went through the roof. When you have trust, people go the extra mile.

Today we must look out for each other and look after each other. Your reputation isn’t what you think it is, it is what other people think it is – who are you listening to?

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