Managers, take bullets for your teams

Building a culture of trust is an integral part of team building and ensuring that you have a thriving work environment, conference attendees were told during a discussion at last week’s Finance Indaba Africa 2017, held at the Sandton Convention Centre, between the financial director of Curro Holdings, Bernardt van der Linde, and Sasfin Bank Limited CFO, Lushen Pather.

How do managers build a culture of trust in the workplace? Lushen firmly believes the only way to do this effectively is for managers to be honest and true to themselves. "You're not going to build trust by buying people pizza because, after a while, your staff will pick up that you just bought them pizza because you want something from them," he explained.

Lushen employs a different management style, which involves learning from his staff, understanding that everyone makes mistakes, and leading from the front. He always tries his best to be there for his employees when they slip up. However, he admits, he hasn't always been this sympathetic to people's mistakes. A few years ago, he was not the easiest person to work with and management, which believed he was a valuable asset at the time despite his problematic management style, decided to take him on an executive coaching course for six months, to help him become a better manager. "The course built me and shaped me into who I am today," he said. "My team members are seeing a difference in my behaviour and have said it has made me a better person and manager."

Bernardt agreed that managers must be more understanding and honest, highlighting that employees are dependent on them as team leaders, and they must be cognisant of the fact that people aren't perfect and will make mistakes. He said:

"When your employees have done something wrong, when you broach the subject, always remember that you're talking to a human being on the other side. Be honest but gentle, and always tell people that it's not personal."

Besides dealing with issues of discipline and conflict, both speakers emphasised that when hiring team members, it is important to have a diverse mix of people. While it's vital to hire strong and competent people, companies should also give candidates who do not have experience opportunities so that they can learn and grow to become industry leaders.

"You need to have a balanced team so that people can learn from each other," said Bernardt. "Otherwise the team will be difficult to manage if everyone is an A player."

Lushen echoed this sentiment, saying that managers need to be careful of only hiring people who are less intelligent than them. It is imperative that managers employ people who challenge them and from whom they can learn so that they don't just see their staff as subordinates, he said.