MBOMBELA – Sometimes it is doing the most simple things in life, which can give you the biggest rewards. However, aim for the stars, said Mr SW Engelbrecht, general manager of Sappi Ngodwana Mill.
He recently had a mentoring session with Ms Phephsile Maseko, Bring Change Lowveld winner.
He shared that it was not sufficient for a business owner to follow steps needed to achieve success: You need all your people on board, rowing in the same direction.
“You cannot attain success through doing these things if you don’t engage your people to move with you,” he said.
He explained that the success of Sappi, which has more than 1 000 permanent employees at its mill in Ngodwana, would have been impossible to achieve if everyone – from top management to entry-level workers – were not aligned to its vision and committed to working to achieve its goals.
Engelbrecht shares the 10 things he believes help him to make decisions easier and create wealth for the business.
Get a strategy of where you want to go
Develop a visual strategy of where you want the company to go. “Some people you will have to tell how to get there, others will want to be left alone to put a plan together themselves. Learn how much detail to share with different people.”
Set four or five smart goals over the short-term (a year), medium term (four years) and long term. The next step is to decide on the main steps you need to take in order to eventually achieve it. “Don’t set a goal you can achieve tomorrow.
Aim for the stars. However, ensure it is possible to achieve, that people feel they can achieve it at some stage.
Take your people with you
You cannot run a business on your own. You have to involve the people who work for you to work with you.
“For me it is very important that you are never alone in anything that you do,” Engelbrecht said. “There is always the support you get from various people. You cannot be successful if you do not have people with you who want to share in your success.
“Give employees direction, otherwise they may not make a meaningful contribution. They will find ways to keep themselves busy, but some of those things may be meaningless in terms of the company’s strategy if you don’t set their agenda yourself.
“Tell him where to aim it, so that the work he performs is meaningful and helps the company move forward. Once you have your goals, focus on them.”
Invest in your strategy
Make sure that people understand what you are trying to do. Take the time, sit down with them. The personal gain from pride of achievement in reaching goals is an investment in the future and profitability of the company, he explained.
“Create an environment where everybody aligns themselves to achieving the goals. Your employees must know what to do to get there. Put systems in place to enable employees to achieve the goals.
“You need to align top management with workers at lower levels. Otherwise they don’t feel the objectives they have achieved, and they don’t see their successes.”
“Remove any obstacles in the way of achieving your vision as soon as possible. Otherwise people will view it as impossible and lose interest,” Engelbrecht said.
There is a difference between helping someone by removing obstacles and doing their jobs for them. People can innovate and make plans. As top management your job is to create an environment where goals can be achieved when employees engage and want to achieve them.
Once everybody is aligned in moving forward, get going. “You can talk about something forever. Why talk about it and plan if you are not going to do it? Start immediately,” Engelbrecht said. “Don’t sit back and relax the pace, then people inevitably sit back and do nothing.
“You must have trust that people will do what they have said. Make sure they stick to the promises they made. People must be accountable. Real freedom in a work environment comes with responsibility. Make sure everybody knows the scope and limits of their authority.”
Once the team has decided what they must do to achieve their goals, measure their progress. You can use a points system to score the progress once a month. Maybe at first they score a two in terms of overall achievement. Reevaluate: what is the next step to get closer to a four and eventually a five out of five?
According to Engelbrecht it is very important to celebrate successes. “It builds a team spirit with people. Do it in different ways for different levels, but it is important to do it.
“Give the whole team an award for achieving steps in a larger goal, such as going 100 days without an injury on duty. It makes people very proud.”
Also, do your hiring smartly. “It is called horses for courses. If you expect someone to, for instance, operate a machine, you want someone who sticks to the rules, not an innovator who wants to change the settings. However, in a manager you need a innovator, one who not only knows how to manage people but also does new things.”
To understand where you are going, you must revisit your goals regularly. “People need to be reminded of what they are achieving and what they must focus on. It motivates them. Build ownership, persistence and pride of achievement.”
Outside changes are inevitable. The business world changes constantly, and sometimes quickly. “You must constantly be aware of what is going on around you. For instance, the exchange rate may have a huge impact on your business. Think carefully.”
Get out of your office
“You never operate in a vacuum. The world is a very dangerous place when you sit in your office and look at it from there. When you don’t engage with everyone, you see only a portion of your business. Your management team will tell you one story. Go and ask the labourers too: get the thread from the lowest level. Talk to people on a regular basis.
“Be careful about what you do with the information so as not to undermine those reporting to you, or you will lose their trust. To function, management must be seen as one. You may quarrel around a table and debate for days if necessary, but outside we speak as one.
“Low-level workers may also be scared to approach you as senior management, but when they do so with a real issue, you must act. People will look up to you if you listen to them and fix certain things for them.”
“Sometimes life is about doing the elementary things correctly,” said Engelbrecht who adds that he likes what he does. “Then why won’t people believe what we are doing is correct? If I am enthusiastic about what I’m doing, why won’t people believe in our strategy?”
If you see someone without the energy to achieve the goals, pull him aside, have a conversation.
“People need to be engaged to continue. Be positive.
“Sometimes the simple things we have forgotten can yield the biggest results.”
- Read what other mentors in the Bring Change Lowveld programme have to share: