Focus: People Management - Coaching session with Stephen Bubb

Q: A colleague of mine thinks it's important her staff are 'happy'. Isn't this just romantic, when actually we need to stress delivery?

Yes, we certainly need to stress delivery. But are you not more likely to get better delivery if you have happy staff?

Now, I don't want you to think I've gone all soft. I would be one of the first to castigate slack approaches to management, where nice managers fail to tackle under-performance because they don't want to upset anyone.

But this is very different from considering whether your working arrangements are promoting the wellbeing of your staff.

You can tell a lot about an organisation from the general reception you get from staff. You can often tell an organisation is good from the first few staff you meet. It is a mistake not to stress delivery and push your staff to achieve. No one with any ambition wants to work in an organisation that does not achieve. So the leadership task is to deliver and to push your people to be better performers as well as ensure their wellbeing.

Did you see that interesting Channel 4 programme on the working atmosphere inside the Labour Party's election campaign HQ? The testosterone-fuelled, macho work culture didn't seem to place particular emphasis on happiness, did it?

I remember reading the obituary last year of Peter Stafford, the famous manager of the Savoy and Dorchester hotels. His philosophy was a simple one: "If one has a happy staff, one has a happy guest." He was obviously a very great leader because when he took over at the Dorchester he called his staff together and told them two things:

- If anything is working, think 20 times before you change it.

- You must remember that I need you much more than you need me.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that if you pay people more they will be happy. We all know that, although pay is important, it is not the only factor. Other issues such as career development, training and promotion are just as important.

Sometimes small things can make a big difference. One organisation I worked in had an individual learning account that allowed you to spend up to £100 on books to help you in your job. It also provided support for gym membership. And it had great away days and other fun events (not to mention an excellent range of teas and coffees).

Management consultants will tell you that an organisation's culture is crucial to overall performance. A macho, back-stabbing atmosphere may work in the short term, but never in the long term. This does not mean you do not stress delivery. The bottom line for any organisation is its purpose - so delivering happiness for your clients is why you and your staff are there.

- Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo)

- Send your questions to

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