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Fri 1 Nov 2019 02:11 AM

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Opinion: why it's good to talk

Most managers would rather balance a budget or write a strategy document than engage with their staff, but it can be the key factor in determining how well their company performs

Opinion: why it's good to talk

Best minds The forum has presented a broad range of business theories

“People suck. All failure, all problems, all mistakes come from people. But all good comes from people too.”

This is the opening line on Dawn Metcalfe’s website. The managing director at Dubai-based training and coaching company PDSi MEA, Metcalfe is the author of The Hardtalk Handbook and is used to telling her clients the brutal truth they don’t want to hear.

At a time when employees in the UAE feel less secure in their jobs than they did at the beginning of the year, Metcalfe says engaging with your staff and giving them feedback is crucial, but it’s something many managers don’t do and don’t want to do.

“If you don’t say to people, ‘thank you, well done,’ they’re going to get annoyed with you. They will go to somebody who does,” she told delegates at the Arabian Business Success 2020 Forum last week.

“Let’s not talk about motivation, it’s boring. If you start talking to senior people about motivation, they start rolling their eyes. Let’s talk about productivity. Every single time, it’s about productivity,” she added.

Hiding in offices

Metcalfe said the issue is that company bosses often stick their heads in the sand and avoid their employees rather than talk to them.

“[Executives] go into their offices and they’re worried about the numbers and processes – they forgot about the people, and that’s the problem. All failure comes from people, and all success comes from people too. It comes from the decisions we make and the way we execute them… The finances are a result of what your people do.

“These are people who want to be successful and they want their organisations to be successful. So they read the books, they listen to [consultants]… but, when push comes to shove, [communicating with employees] is not where they spend their time. They go and hide in [offices]…” she said.

It’s not just about keeping staff motivated. Engaging with them has a direct impact on customer service and therefore revenue. A happy employee leads to a happy client and happy accountant, according to Faten Abu-Ghazaleh, president of customer satisfaction index Service Hero.

“Stepping outside your comfort zone and praising your staff and telling them they’ve done a good job can have really positive results”

Echoing Metcalfe’s stance on bosses’ reluctance to engage with staff, she said it’s because they are often not wired that way.

“Most CEOs are finance guys or engineers and so they are more comfortable with their numbers, processes and standards. They are not comfortable telling people ‘you’ve done a good job’.”

But the data shows that stepping outside your comfort zone and praising your staff and telling them they’ve done a good job can have really positive results.

“Winning hearts is a big driver that will really push the pendulum upwards and all the research that we’ve done, as well as many academic studies that prove this, there’s a 40 percent impact between a happy satisfied motivated team with passion, versus a team that does the job because it’s the job that they have to do.”

Often executives will look to big buzzwords to help them out, believing things like artificial intelligence, robotics and blockchain will be easier to deal with than the emotions of their staff.

AI is not magic

But this is not the case and machine learning can’t replace human experience.

“AI is not magic. You can’t just sprinkle AI over your business problems and expect that they will go away,” Martin Adams, one of the world’s leading AI experts, who has worked with the likes of Barack Obama, Will Smith and Queen Elizabeth II, told delegates in a keynote speech.

“Would you trust a machine to give an inspirational speech at your away day? Would you trust a machine to make investment decisions? No.

“You need to set up the data and think about how and why you’re going to use it. AI can’t automate everything and that’s the truth.”

A clear example of emotional intelligence in action was the fact that a lot of our winners at the Arabian Business Achievement Awards this year were commended for how they treat their staff or dedicated their awards to the teams they work with.

This is real leadership in action and explains why many of them have had such successful careers.

So, if you are reading this in your office, open the door, go outside and talk to your employees. It’s not easy and it’s not fun at the start but they’ll be happier. And your finance officer will be too.


Shane McGinley, Editorial Director