Recently I hosted a dinner for ten senior directors at a FTSE 100 company. One of them described the most important meeting of the year.
At the first Senior Management Meeting in January the team schedules all of the vital non-work events they want to attend that year. For parents this includes all the typical seasonal events as well as parents’ evenings. What’s more, the director tells them to take full advantage of technology-enabled flexible working. He said, “I’m happy if my reports want to pick up or take their children to school as I see how much this is appreciated and how this increases focus and productivity.”
During the next meeting they discuss any clashes or peaks in the workload so each manager can attend their crucial family events guilt-free. The director then asks his managers to repeat the exercise with those they lead.
This organisation is fast moving, constantly changing and operationally-focussed. Even so, many leaders in the organisation prefer employees to be in the office all the time, and attendance at anything outside work is frowned upon. But according to our enlightened director “ … if organisations don’t change in 3-5 years the best talent won’t want to work for them as they will no longer accept this approach to work.”
The director describes several benefits:
- He builds better relationships because he knows more about what is going on in his employees’ lives
- Employees are hugely more committed to him as a result of his reciprocal commitment to them having a life outside work
- It increases productivity by encouraging employees to ask a regular and simple question: “Why are we doing this?” This question is rarely asked because employees are focussed on action. Indeed, this is often what they are rewarded for
- Many of the conventional norms about how work is done are increasingly being questioned by those stepping into senior leadership positions whose values are different (millennials).