July 29th, 2013
Originally founded 100 years ago in Nagoya, Japan, Brother is a global electronics and manufacturing company, with sales in over 100 countries. The UK subsidiary, based on the outskirts of Manchester, was originally established in 1968 and provides sales, marketing, technical support, warehousing and distribution.
Phil Jones was been appointed Managing Director of Brother UK in April 2013, heading up a 180-strong workforce and with responsibility for £100m of sales.
How would you describe the current business environment?
In the current business environment it’s not good enough to do things averagely well anymore. Remember the customer is no longer king – the customer is King Kong – they have your reputation in their hands!
To do well in this climate it’s important to aim to be uber-successful. However good your service or product may be, this is the time to amplify what you have and really make it come to life. At Brother UK, we are continuously looking at new ways to go to market, outperform or outsmart the competition and understand what our critical capabilities are.
Companies that cling to traditional mindsets and cultures will find it ever-more challenging to operate in this uber-fast environment.
If the old paradigm is crumbling and business models have to change, what will tomorrow’s business look like?
The future of business is more molecular as the role of every person within an organisation will be valued in a more holistic sense. When the “structure” of an organisation becomes cross-functional and works as a pattern or in a non-linear way, the culture unifies into what can be described as a ‘collective consciousness’ or oneness of intent.
So how do you cultivate a work culture where discretionary effort is the norm and people go that extra bit of the way?
I always ask people, “what is your DING?” By this I mean their overarching purpose. Once you understand that, you can put in place the tools and support systems they need to reach their full potential and reward the behaviours that underpin their vision, mission and values.
You need to understand that work and career isn’t an end in itself: people come to work to fund their own journeys. But they can’t unleash their full potential unless they understand what their journey is.
Only when they know that can people connect with how they feel about their work at every level; mind, heart and soul. Only then can the inner enquiry start to take place. “Do I really believe in this journey? Am I part of something bigger or am I just going through the grid because that’s what life is all about?”
I also believe that it’s important for people to take their health seriously, stay physically fit and ensure that they invest time in at least one non-work related passion that ignites their inner self.
At a recent Academy event in London, you mentioned the importance of “being in the flow”. What does this mean and how does it relate to performance?
It’s about understanding life as a continuous journey of self-development and learning. So the question is how to align heart and mind with the flow of life. I believe that we all have an unconscious satnav in our brains which provides us with a moral compass or guidance system to navigate this flow. In essence, it’s about how you apply intellectual knowledge emotionally by aligning the mind with the heart. This in turn helps to shape various lenses of perspective on situations as they arise.
Let’s face it. Everything does not always go according to plan in life. In the end, organisations are collections of people and all manner of things can go wrong in their lives on a daily basis. Its just part of being human. So we try to provide back-up and support mechanisms to help people when their circumstances are sub-optimal. We try to guide them towards a higher level of emotional intelligence regardless of their physical, emotional and mental states and help them to continue to operate effectively.
That’s interesting. What sorts of things do you do to support a member of staff who is going through a difficult time?
Back-to-work interviews are useful if someone has been taking a lot of time off sick. That way we can get to the bottom of the issue and if it’s serious, provide counselling assistance. We also profile all our people on emotional intelligence and help them to practice self-management.
Additionally, we have a business psychologist working with the executive and senior sales teams to develop their emotional quotient and deal with day-to-day issues such as how to deal with stress, deliver bad news, etc. We also have a coach working 1:1 with 30 of our higher performers, regardless of their functional role. Much of this is done informally by having lots of conversations with people – myself included – rather than a more structured program.
I believe that the success of this approach is borne out by the fact that our sickness absence is just 1% and average job tenure is 12 years.
What else sparks innovation and creativity within your business?
We recruit for attitude and are serious about diversity in every respect. I have an organisation map based on the personality types of individuals in different areas of the business – whether they are thinkers, perceivers, extroverts etc. This overview of our “organisational chemistry” is very helpful in getting the balance right. Everyone is different.
For example, if we have a brainstorm session I know that there are some people who prefer to know what issue is going to be discussed is 24 hours in advance. Others prefer to just turn up on the day and see what happens. Others are “reflectors” who prefer to come back with feedback 24 hours later. So we cater for everyone and don’t make decisions until everyone’s views have been accommodated.
How are your own behaviours a catalyst for the performance of the business?
A catalytic leader imprints his or her abilities and self-esteem on the culture of that business. It is all about just ‘Being’: you have to understand who you really are to get that flow. I am very close to the people here and my management style is hands-on. It’s more the Brother community than a traditional company.
The key has been to develop my own style in relation to people who I consider to be working alongside me and not for me.
It’s also important to pick up on the internal chatter and to really listen to what people are feeling to gauge whether or not they are fully aligned with the organisation’s values. That means things like eating alongside them in the restaurant and having an informal mode of communication. If you sense that someone feels uncomfortable talking to you, it’s likely that they will tell you what you want to hear rather than what’s really bothering them.
We have a culture in which sharing bad news early is encouraged. That way we can implement counter measures as quickly as possible or give us ourselves breathing space whilst a solution is found.
So what’s your Ding, Phil?
It’s simple. Here’s what I’d like my epitaph to say: “He was passionate about helping people to be their best ”