Disaster!); I was devastated and close to breakdown. I still have the diaries where, deep in depression, I wondered if I could ever feel happy again. But it’s also where I first
discovered what happens if the manager keeps out of the way. After the bankruptcy, as the newspaper struggled on, I took over the role of finance manager and basically hid in my office because I felt so low. Te weird thing was that the
department started functioning better and, for the first time, produced de- cent accounts. Left to themselves, the staff knew how to get the job done. My noblest hour was, possibly,
“Henry fizzes with energy, though must be colour blind given his shirt choices, and is a massively engaging speaker. I’ve been lucky enough to have had him as a mentor for most of the time I’ve known him. Other than our shared passion for staff engagement, and our gender, we
have very little in common. Asking for his input gives me a tremendous insight into the things I just can’t
see. Don’t tell him how useful this is to me – he may send me a bill!” Dominic Monkhouse, Foundry Media
“Over a 20-year period, I have known Henry as a competitor, a business partner and, more recently, as his business mentor. He is great fun to work with and passionate about everything to do with learning and creating happy workplaces.
Moreover, his business ethics make him one of the most trustworthy people you will find.” Ron Orme, E3 Training and Consultancy Ltd
“Henry Stewart has always been an inspiration to me since the day I met him at one of our events in 1995. His passion for training and, more recently, his focus on ‘happy workplaces’ is infectious and I am always entranced when I hear him speak. But I have also learned so much from him over the years, especially on getting the best from his people at work and his philosophies on giving people space to learn and grow. So whenever you see a luminous shirt that hurts your eyes at an event, I'll be next to him, listening!”
Colin Steed, Learning Now TV www.trainingjournal.com
winning the Management Today/ Unisys Service Excellence award for the best customer service of any company, large or small, in the UK. It was an amazing accolade, all
the more so because the judges knew us very well and actually visited and talked to staff and clients, rather than just basing it on a presentation.
What and when was your career turning point?
It was 1987; News on Sunday had gone bust. I’d taken a job in London and been sacked after just 12 days, because they “didn’t like my attitude”. I was due to meet my father for lunch and he suggested I shouldn’t just jump into something else but should take time to think about what I really wanted to do. It was good advice. I quickly decided that I did not want to work for anybody else again. I was fine with my “attitude” and would find other people who were too. I wanted to avoid the endless office politics of News on Sunday and simply get stuff done. So I went on Unemployment
Benefit, now Jobseeker’s Allowance and started to look at what to do. I con- sidered a few things (TV production, computer consultancy, software resale). I settled on IT training because
it was totally based on working with people and, to be honest, it didn’t seem to be being done very well. Standing at the front telling people which keys to press, as was then the norm, did not seem a good model for effective learning.
Describe your best learning and development experience
An intensive liberation workshop in 1985 was definitely life-changing for me. It was based on counselling (re-evaluation counselling to be exact) and on creating a hugely supportive and appreciative culture. In learning pairs we explored our traumas and challenged each other to fulfil our potential. I remember the workshop
leader urging us all to “put your hand to the flame”, to face the issue that you found most difficult. I did, facing the issue I had been determined to not even mention.
Playing to win ``
Celebrate mistakes: The best advice I was given when starting my business was “go make mistakes”. I’ve made plenty and now believe in celebrating them.
` ` ` `
Believe the best: Believe the best of everybody you encounter and you won’t often be disappointed.
Be positive: Always look for the best interpretation, always search out the opportunity. You can choose to create an upward trend that makes you, and the people around you, feel better about themselves and perform better.
Play to strengths: One of my favourite quotes is, “Everyone has the potential to be remarkable” (Lord Michael Young). Our task is to help people find that spark – that thing they are great at.
Trust people: Once you’ve got people doing what they are good at, trust them. Help create guidelines and then set them free to deliver, without endless rules and layers of approval.
Coach, don’t tell: Realise that your role as a manager is not to be the expert. Instead, it is to support your people and help them find their own solution. Being a good coach is the single most effective behaviour of managers.
What people dislike at work is ... micromanagement, being told what to do and blame culture. What they love, and enables them to do their best work, is doing what they are good at, being given free- dom to be their best, and cultures that support and don’t blame.
Facing it in a totally supportive environment was hugely powerful and I felt like the knots in my stomach and my head had been unwound.
What’s next in your career?
Our aim is a world where a happy workplace is the norm and not the ex- ception. I think we are a little way from that so there’s plenty of work to do. Next is exploring and discovering new ways to help organisations move to- wards truly great places to work in.
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