When Virgin Atlantic brought in Sir Richard Branson it was to challenge the status quo. Leadership is complex so it’s important to focus ourselves and prepare for action. How many of us have experience genuinely powerful leadership? Ask a different question… How many of us are faced with lukewarm to poor leadership every day? Right. So we definitely needed a step up and we needed to find ideas from all over.
Andre Bello (Commercial Manager Caribbean for Virgin Atlantic
Gervase Warner (CEO of Massy Group)
Eudine Barriteau (Principal of UWI)
Juliet Skinner (Medical Director at The Barbados Fertility Centre)
Lisandra Rickards (Chief Entrepreneurship Officer at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in Jamaica)
In the medical world, students are taught medicine for many years and it would be naive to believe that doctor training stops when they graduate. Though, regardless of the number of years of training or practise, doctors never reach a stage where they are taught how to manage a team. They can work their way through the ranks of a hospital to be the best doctor in the world… But with a team that has no direction, motivation or progress.
Looking at the circumstances of a startup, the entrepreneur will always be product-centric from the very beginning. What is the product, why is it important, how can it be made better, marketed better? But as the company grows the entrepreneur starts to gather a team and before you know it you have a product-centric individual who is supposed to manage people; and building a team is vital to growth. But with what experience? And what mentorship or guidance? So although the entrepreneur might not feel any different, the people around him are looking at him differently – with eyes of expectation. At this stage it’s critical to instil your purpose and vision in the team. They have to know it so well they could recite it. From here you can develop corporate culture and with corporate culture comes the responsibility as a manager/director/owner to embody that culture. The transition from starting a company to becoming an owner with teams of people means that your skillset has to change so that you practise what you preach. In this way Business really can be change for good, not just for employees but for society because managers and leaders should be working hard to maximise the potential of each individual in their team.
There is a problem with managerial status in the Caribbean though. It’s that we tend to take on a new persona, a new character as we take our new role. We feel the need to act a certain way because we’re convinced that this is how a manager should manage. All the islands in the Caribbean share a colonial heritage and we have all grown up surrounded by this colonial style of management. What’s stopping people from being happy, open managers? It doesn’t make anyone worse at their job by being empathetic or plain happy. There are also lots of nuances in the Caribbean. Business in the Caribbean is riddled with etiquette to the point where no one in a meeting is saying any genuine or productive. All this does cloud the communication process towards any decision making. So despite all the cultural differences that any Caribbean company can have, it’s important to define the purpose of the company so well that all cultural differences will come second to the goals and values the company strives for.
Targets are important to achieve the goals. Entrepreneurship has to be scalable and once you have team you need to understand them and how they work for them to work better for you. If the team is suffering or slowed because of fear, a leader can take that fear and use it to problem-solve until there are no fears but instead much better sales.