Leading from the top

HOW to manage? When considering how to manage we first have to think about what it is we need to achieve? In the past, the most common style of management was to bend people to the will of an individual manager and there are still many who think this style is the best and only way.

Times are changing and the modern employee looks for more from an employer or manager than just the next order or instruction. Strong management and leadership are the key but it is more based on human interaction, maybe a story with a business philosophy, than a direct command. Asking people if they will do something instead of telling them to do it is a better approach. In short, management needs to find a middle ground with staff to help pave the way to making things work for all.

At Whittaker we have an interesting history. This September we are 36 years in business and some of the staff have been with us from the start. We have more than five employees who are 30 plus years. Our business has organically grown so we have maintained a family feel. We have 11 sets of families working within our 130 staff at our Stonehaven base.

Without falling into the obvious and often repeated cliché that ‘it’s all about people’, it is all about people - human capital is what ultimately defines a business. It is important to ensure that the precious resource of your people are treated with respect and humility. In our opinion this is the only way to get the best from the people, thus benefitting the business.

Simple things like leading by example and doing the right thing is important. The definition of integrity is ‘doing the right thing even when no one is looking’. Attributes like this, among other things, like commitment to training and loyalty which we see as a two-way street, helps to ensure a long and sustainable legacy for a company or organisation.

For us at Whittaker, being human and talking openly with the staff at all levels seems to work to ensure the right balance between being relaxed enough to chat but formal enough to push for a deadline when it is required.

Our commitment to continuously training apprentices, around four per year, gives a really unique dynamic to the day to day running of the business. This is because the young people bring fresh blood and fresh ideas to the organisation which works as a good mix with the some of the older staff. One of our team who is well in his sixties commented that the new young people starting every year help him stay and feel young. There is no ‘silver bullet’ or bespoke training that can be done to be a good, effective, well liked manager. I believe it is a combination of factors – the most important being to treat people as you would wish to be treated. It is also important to give a little of yourself as this is vital for a day to day healthy working relationship.

Murray Whittaker

Murray Whittaker