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17 MARCH 2015

CASE STUDY: Leading workers to care in a low-pay business

Transforming a call centre business from a “white-collar sweatshop”, racked by dishonesty and corruption, into a place where people would want to work was the objective of Manager A when she was appointed as a senior operations executive. The Care and Growth methodology helped her to achieve that objective.

When Manager A joined the business in 2003, it employed about 600 people and it had one call centre near Johannesburg. 10 years later its call centre business had grown to about 2,300 employees and was operated nationally from various branches, and its revenues had more than quadrupled.

“So as a business it has been hugely successful,” says Manager A.

But “successful” was not what would have described the workings of the business when she arrived.

She found very little trust in management by the employees in the business. In fact management was considered to be dishonest by the call centre agents. For instance, managers were said to be “selling” jobs and firing those who didn’t pay the bribe. The bribe was a portion of an employee’s salary for the first few months of employment.

Management was by fear. If an employee was disliked by a manager or stood his/her ground on an issue, the manager would intentionally give that person a computer that didn’t work properly or a broken headset so that he/she wouldn’t be able to achieve the production target and could then be fired.

Management by fear was maintained via the use of disciplinary processes – subordinates were given warnings for everything that they did wrong. One agent who was leaving as Manager A arrived showed Manager A a lever arch file filled with the warnings that she had received in eight months.

The call centre also made extensive use of incentives (although agents often had to pay a portion of an incentive to a manager).

Not surprisingly, staff turnover was sky-high.



ARTICLE: Can anyone lead?
By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership

Intent is not an ability issue but rather a matter of the will. As such, intent is a choice. It follows logically, therefore, that anyone in a leadership role who chooses to give to his/her people, to Care for and Grow them, can lead.

And yet there are six attributes which, if they are distinguishing features of a leader, seriously undermine that leader’s capacity to lead in terms of the Care and Growth criteria.



ARTICLE: I can’t do Care and Growth, and it’s our bonus system’s fault!
By Ian Munro, consultant, Legitimate Leadership

Holding people accountable for their contribution (what they give) rather than for the result (what they get) is a fairly straightforward and logical concept. Yet it is one of the most difficult aspects of the Care and Growth model to implement on the ground.

The following two practical problems can however be solved:

– Rewarding or giving money away to people who don’t contribute.

– Rewarding a positive contribution when there is no money.



ARTICLE:  Why engagement happens in employees’ hearts, not their minds

By Mark C. Crowley, US leadership consultant and author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century. (Note: this author is not connected to, or known by, Legitimate Leadership in any way).

What are the real drivers of human engagement in the workplace? What are those things that consistently inspire people to fully commit themselves in their jobs and to willingly scale mountains for their bosses and organizations?

For the past two-plus years, I’ve been singularly focused on answering these big questions. This search has included many visits (including to companies like Google) and interviews (including with leadership luminaries like Ken Blanchard).

We hear a lot about employee perks and are led to believe the more extravagant they are, the better they are in stimulating performance. With the exception of health care and on-site daycare (which make people feel valued), few other perks significantly influence engagement.

While it used to be that people derived their greatest sense of happiness from time spent with family and hobbies, how satisfied workers feel in their jobs now determines their overall happiness with life. This monumental shift means that job fulfillment has become essential to people everywhere.

For centuries, most people went to work to get a paycheck, in order to put a roof over their heads and food on their table. But as a driver of engagement, pay now ranks no higher than fifth in importance to people—in every industrialized country. What truly inspires worker engagement in the 21st century can best be described as “emotional currency.” Here’s what that means:

Without exception, bosses predominantly concerned about their own needs create the lowest levels of employee engagement. Going forward, having an authentic advocacy for the development and success of others should be prerequisite for selection into all leadership roles.


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