“Buildings are usually a venue from which to serve our customers, but the bricks and mortar play a small role in our business. It is the people that are important,” says retired former Chief Executive of McCarthy Limited, Brand Pretorius.
Pretorius says if you want to move an organisation from “good” to “great” you have to bring in great talent, utilise talent fully and afford talent the opportunity to optimise contribution. “This makes an enormous difference. It represents potentially the most competitive advantage that you can ever have, the quality and the level of motivation of people.”
He has on occasion compromised and settled for good talent: “The difference when it comes to contribution of great talent is in order of magnitude. In cases where I only settled for great talent the reward was incredible in terms of the quality of the contribution, the creativity and the level of commitment. I am a disciple of great talent and the value of quality human capital.”
People are critical for achieving an organisation’s vision and good bottom line results. However, in order to do so, people need to be engaged: “You cannot instruct people to become engaged or demand people to respect or trust you – this has to be earned.”
The leader’s task is to present a unifying vision that will inspire people, and then instil in people the right values to get people to work together toward the attainment of the same objectives so that all people fly in formation. “You earn the commitment to translate the vision into reality to attain the objective by caring about people and by serving,” Pretorius explains.
If you can unify and inspire people by getting them to believe in the same dream, you can create a sense of belonging. Because you share the same values, you work together towards the attainment of the same objective: “Your organisation has a higher purpose. People know that if they join hands, should they accept co-responsibility, do their best, they will benefit in terms of financial rewards, career advancement, new opportunities, and growth. They will make a difference. Then you are in a position where the organisation will move forward and there will be an achievement culture where everyone feels we are working together because we have the same dream. The attainment of the dream will deliver personal benefits. Contribution is appreciated; people are acknowledged and respected; this is how successful businesses operate.”
The optimisation of performance and commitment and engagement necessitates a multi-faceted and integrated approach: “It is like conducting a symphony orchestra. You cannot only listen to the drums. To produce beautiful music there needs to be harmony, a conductor, a common direction and various musical instruments. All have to play their rightful role – that is what makes leadership a daunting task.”
One cannot just be kind and in the process sacrifice results: “You have to strike the right balance between discipline and warmth. You have to assess the situation and remain focused on the results, but to earn the commitment you also need a gentle heart. It is one of the very difficult components of leadership and that is why when I conceptualised my philosophy I often told myself to remain hard-headed when it comes to results, because if we do not deliver the results, sustainability of the business will be at risk and eventually the people will suffer. So, I remain hard-headed when it comes to results, but I do not crucify the value that I care. I am kind, but I am not weak, I am humble, but I am not timid. I am firm, but I am also fair. I am rigorous when it comes to results, but not ruthless when it comes to people. To ensure the organisation’s sustainability we have to recognise that the acid test of leadership is to get the job done. It is a prerequisite for sustainability in the tough world of business.”
One needs to be consistent in one’s philosophy: “One needs a not-negotiable attitude and commitment to results, but a caring attitude when it comes to people. These concepts are not mutually exclusive; they can form a very powerful partnership.”
Pretorius has specific advice for talent managers: “Make sure you employ the best talent you can find. Do not compromise. If you want to retain your great talent you have to offer such people opportunity and stimulation and the ability to realise their God-given potential. The number one priority is to say we are delighted to have you as a member of the team – this is our vision, these are our objectives, optimise your contribution to give your top talent space and give them tangible evidence that there is a long-term career path and opportunities for personal growth and development.
If you want to retain them there should be just reward. Celebrate success and create an abundance mentality. Give credit, acknowledge, communicate.”
The personal growth component is the most important prerequisite: “If you employ the right talent and the people can see there are almost unlimited opportunities for personal growth. If they feel that they are acknowledged and rewarded fairly then you will keep them.”
Pretorius also has a message for Talenttalks readers: “Sometimes when I talk to very talented young people I get the impression that they focus on their ambitions. I learnt in business it is better to focus on your results and to ensure that you anchor, that you are not only results-driven, or ambition-focused or obsessed, but that you anchor your decisions and your behaviour in the right principles and values. If you have a sound foundation anchored in the right principles and values and you then deliver the results, all of your dreams will be realised. To put it differently, always do the right things right when it comes to principles and values and your personal strategy and then do the right things right. If your behaviour is in line with the right principles and values and you master the skill of effective execution, then all of your dreams will come true.”