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Within a few months of a Legitimate Leadership Introduction course, DNI Retail, a subsidiary company of the DNI Group, which is a medium-sized South African company, has experienced “an enormous outburst of excellence” in its various departments. And generally, its employees are happier, more committed and less likely to refer to their managers when taking decisions. This in turn means that managers can focus on the real purposes of their jobs and not be involved in decisions which their subordinates should take.

DNI Retail is the largest distributor of sim cards for Cell C (a cellular phone provider) in South Africa. Its head office in Johannesburg employs about 40 people, broadly divided between retail, wholesale and service functions.

In late January this year executives and senior managers at DNI’s head office underwent a two-day Legitimate Leadership Introduction course with Ian Munro, director of Legitimate Leadership.

After the course, Munro had a follow-up meeting with the executive to gain feedback and to reinforce the training. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

But then the hard work had to begin.

Dave Smaldon, Group Chief Financial Officer of the DNI Group, set a deadline for each department under DNI Retail to produce its own standards of excellence, with the background of the Legitimate Leadership training. This has been done.

This means that, in the finance department for instance, a set standard is that management reports must be produced by the 10th of the month, but a more demanding “standard of excellence” is that they are produced earlier than that.

According to Revathi Seunarain, DNI’s Human Resources (HR) Business Partner, there has been an “enormous outburst of excellence”, particularly in the Finance department. Management reports are being produced early, payments for the month are being completed earlier, etc.

All departments are working on this exercise. Leaders in other departments are less office-based and the changes may take slightly longer. However, all leaders are portraying the qualities of “care” and “grow”, she says.

Seunarain says the quick results in the finance department have been achieved because Smaldon has always been a people-orientated leader and a good mentor. What has changed since the Legitimate Leadership training is that the members of his team have been more empowered to make decisions by themselves. “They are not even coming into his office as regularly as they used to,” according to Seunarain.

In addition, Seunarain says, Smaldon has also initiated the successful running of the Business Intelligence Team. Simply putting the right person in the right place in terms of position has brought about excellent results and findings in that team, which is flourishing.

DNI Retail deals mainly with usage on Cell C sim cards and if a target of usage is reached, it traditionally celebrates in a small way.

It was decided that there should be a DNI Retail head office initiative for people to know more about the company. In line with this initiative, a competition has been instituted in which people guess total sim card usage every month. If anyone guesses right, s/he wins a day off work.

This is in line with the Legitimate Leadership precept that if you want people to contribute to your business they need to understand the business and how well or otherwise it is doing – in fact, that the people who need to understand the score more than anyone else are those who put the score on the scoreboard.

Management meetings are now held on a monthly basis. Each person in the department is given an opportunity to present. But the meetings are not based only on presentations, but also each department’s contribution to DNI Retail as a whole. The presentations to date have exceeded expectations and each meeting gets better, says Seunarain.

In another initiative, each representative from the retail side of the business asks the executives or line managers’ questions about the company. This is, again, to empower everyone with business knowledge.

To encourage teambuilding, action netball has been introduced for head office staff.

For Seunarain, one of the biggest positives from the training so far has been “the increased happiness of members of staff”.

“That makes my job in HR easier. People are happy to come to work, they go beyond their job requirements, and they help each other. It’s made my job easier because managers should only be coming to HR for certain things. Now they are coming to me much less.

“Now I can focus on much more exciting initiatives like training and development and keeping the motivation up.

“Most importantly we can really rely on our people and trust them.”

Generally, Seunarain believes employees have become happier because they have become more conscious that management cares for them. “Purely doing a Legitimate Leadership implementation has had an impact from an employee perspective because it has indicated to them that they are in a company which cares about them and their growth.”

Seunarain says DNI Retail’s next step is to do the Legitimate Leadership application module, Raising of the Bar, at end-June, and she is in anticipation of what the effects of that might be.

“We have chosen this module to keep the momentum going, to further empower our leaders and employees, and to fine-tune our standards of excellence,” says Seunarain.