What I’ve learnt: Gill Southern

December 5, 2016

Fair play and respect are so important. Once, when I was working in a junior role, my manager was a bit of a bully by reputation and in my absence would sneak and check over work, undermine any enthusiasm or creativity and micro manage my every task. It began to crush and destroy my confidence. My mother then told me that everyone’s voice and contribution should be respected and standing up for yourself was important. This led to a face-to-face meeting and, I’m glad to say, a few nicer manners thereafter.

‘Play for more than you can afford to lose and then you will learn the game.’ This motto isn’t meant to encourage recklessness but a reminder that you have to have real professional courage at times and push boundaries, take risks and work outside of your comfort zone. It will help move business forward, especially in tough times. Take the plunge and then work harder than ever to make it work.

Understand the opportunities and constraints of your business. It will help you to develop strategies and set SMART goals.

Look after your physical and mental health. You will need a lot of energy to inspire others and keep them engaged when they are running on empty.

Stay humble. Don’t get carried away with awards and recognition. Positive press is always earned through team work.

Don’t agonise, over analyse or second-guess yourself. I was once given this advice and I have found it helpful over the years. Many times, no decision is worse than a wrong decision because inaction paralyses staff, prevents progress and destroys morale.

After growing successfully, don’t imagine that you can sit back and just routinely expect more of the same. Whatever level you reach, keep reviewing and continuously improving. Little steps, bright ideas and timely action count at any time.

Be aware, be agile and don’t get stuck in a rut. 

Look outward as well as inward. Most small companies get too caught up in the day-to-day routines but you should always be benchmarking yourself against other organisations and taking advice.

Find a mentor to work closely with you – someone who can get to really understand your business, either informally or as a non-executive director and who can ask questions of you, to challenge your thinking or clarify your decision making. 

Stick close to what you do well as you grow. There should be plenty of opportunities to diversify and learn on the way, but make sure you continue to play to your strengths and keep focused so that any new activity will genuinely add value in terms of your bottom line, skills base, customer relationships and reputation. Don’t spread yourself and the company too thinly, with disruption and unnecessary risk.

Always strive to be an inspirational leader. Train and empower staff to enable them achieve their full potential. Also, give positive feedback as well as constructive criticism wherever you can.

The best way to motivate your team is to learn to let go and trust them. 

Don’t forget to have fun. A sense of humour goes a long way. Surrounded by tough welders, platers and fabricators from a ship yard, coal mine and heavy industry heritage, there is never a dull moment at Wessington Cryogenics. In tough times, I know we can rely on a bit of factory humour. I wouldn’t swap it – it’s magic.

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Wessington Cryogenics

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