HAVING enjoyed a six-year spell as a Managing Director in a major UK company Jim Collins is well qualified to comment on the question of leadership.
He has a few cards up his sleeve. Crucially, though, he makes sure his workforce have the ACE – his key watchwords; Autonomy, Confidence and Empowerment, because, for Jim, these are critical elements he strives to endorse, and all employees under his remit (be they involved in technical, commercial or sales) know they are very much responsible for their own actions.
Moreover, they are given the freedom to express themselves and given the best tools they can expect, therefore allowing them to be the best they can be as individuals within a dynamic team.
Jim is a people person and projects an admirable human side which can often be lost in top-level management.
At the heart of his agenda is setting people free and he puts his soul into developing a simple and effective approach to business. Not so much massaging egos as caressing – rather than suppressing – their natural enthusiasm.
‘For me it’s about keeping things simple, creating minimal ground rules, ensuring autonomy and giving confidence to people to work within simple guidelines,’ he explains.
‘It’s important to set people free and to encourage them to make their own decisions. Without wishing to undermine the role, I don’t think being a Managing Director of a company or being a leader is anything special if you apply these techniques.’
Having the confidence of your boss, and therefore within yourself, is fundamental to being successful and Jim takes up this theme.
‘The sales guys, for instance, have to have confidence,’ he says. ‘If you are a tyrant as a boss the first thing to go is their confidence. They can’t sell a thing to anyone unless they have that.
‘I can talk to sales managers and their teams about their delivery, their order intake and order bank and emphasise certain points by educating them in the mechanics of the role.
‘Ultimately, you have to empower them to do what they do best which is to sell a premium product. They know their customers better than anyone and it’s important you don’t step on their role and undermine that relationship, rather than support it.
‘I also encourage people, whatever their role, to have fun doing what they’re doing. I don’t want people being pent-up and worried when they come to work. It’s a tough enough environment already without people telling them how unproductive they might be. They don’t need a boss getting on their case.’
Having the right equipment to fulfil their brief, be it the right company car, iPhone, iPad, or laptop, is key and Jim adds: ”People shouldn’t be doing their day job thinking “I just can’t do this because I haven’t got this, or that.” There are clear ground rules, and they should be able to conform and achieve within those rules.
‘I often say to them “just do it” as they are responsible for their own destiny be it results, profits or commission.
‘That is very much part of what David Taylor is all about too and where we empathise with one another.’
David, Founder of Naked Leader, says: ‘Jim is a walking, living, inspirational example of being a Naked Leader. Especially around confidence. When Jim partnered with us, I witnessed the most extraordinary display of confidence at an off-site.
‘Jim had prepared a full day’s agenda and was running through it, when he suddenly decided to tear it up and have an open, unscripted agenda. He tore up the paper, put away the Powerpoint and literally handed the day over to his people.’
Jim recalls: ‘I first met David when he did a one-day leadership session I attended. I found his techniques really interesting and both he and I immediately realised we were on the exact same wavelength.
‘I then took the opportunity to engage in David’s services for a mid-year business review for all managers and leaders within my business, which we ran in a very exciting and different way.
‘It was designed to bring out the very best in my people leaving them with a real eye-opener into their own leadership styles that they could take away to both their personal and professional lives. I have since engaged in further programmes with The Naked Leader aimed directly at sales performance again with eye-opening consequences and take-outs for my teams.
‘I would thoroughly recommend both David and The Naked Leader to any business leader, though it has to be said that it is up to us all as business leaders to make it happen thereafter!’
Making it happen involves being visible as an MD and Jim adds: ‘You can always sense the mood in the air so it’s important to go and meet people and feel how much warmth you are receiving. ‘Generally allowing them to make their own decisions and express themselves makes for a happy workforce.
‘Empowerment develops good decision makers and means that as an MD and business leader I have a tidier desk and fewer day-to-day problems to manage at top level, which frees up my time to go out and meet our staff, in doing so becoming more visible and supportive.’
There is an art to leadership – and it is clear Jim Collins has mastered it.