It runs contrary to the prevailing business philosophy of the past 30 years, but Bob Chapman has found that taking over companies without sacking anyone who works there has helped him to build a business empire worth $2bn.
It’s all down to leadership, says Chapman, chair and CEO of manufacturing technology group Barry-Wehmiller Companies. Speaking at the annual meeting of the West Coast Chamber, he explained the nuts and bolts of what he calls “truly human leadership”, which is built around valuing employees as individuals and helping them live up to their potential. How does it work?
The idea behind this leadership strategy is twofold. By making employees feel cared for (unlike a shocking 88% of the US workforce), it increases their loyalty and encourages them to do their best to make the company a success, because they know their contributions are valued. By allowing personal friendships to flourish within the company, it creates an environment where everyone is working together in both good times and bad. Chapman has described situations in which, when money was tight, employees voluntarily took unpaid time off to help ensure there would be no redundancies. The resulting team spirit is something many business owners would envy.
Building this sort of business starts by connecting with individual employees and spending time with them to find out their ambitions. This kind of employee engagement could lead to moving them around within the organisation to make sure they’re doing work they enjoy, and it has the additional plus point of giving leaders access to employees’ insights and ideas about how things might be done more effectively.
Chapman argues that human leadership has helped to make his companies a financial success, but he gives the impression he’d do it anyway. It cannot only make a business more prosperous – it can make it a happier place to work.
Deborah Hulme, Director, Minerva Engagement