Air Blow Fans

Air Blow Fans

Winner of the Excellence in the Management of People award for 2018, category for small enterprises

Our adjudicator Kenneth Mabilisa shares with us their experience of Air Blow Fans

How to use people’s strengths and avoid unproductive personality clashes

It takes different personalities and talents to build an effective, cohesive team but if the individuals in the team don’t understand each other’s differences, tension can result. Air Blow Fans has found a way to get the most out of a diverse bunch of people so that they complement rather than frustrate each other.

It starts with recognising the value that different personalities and viewpoints bring and, conversely, the dangers of attempting to stamp a culture of clone-like uniformity on business, says Gavin Ratner, managing member.

“If everyone was like me, the place would fall apart. It takes all types to be successful,” he says, explaining: “I’m not a detail person at all but my sales manager is extremely detailed. He knows it’s not personal and that he has to make sure I give him everything he needs to do his job properly. We understand each other.”

That understanding is not based on telepathy or even years of working together. It stems from the conscious effort that Air Blow Fans makes to ensure its people are aware of each other’s different personalities and how to work together productively despite – or perhaps because of – those differences.

The company uses professional personality profilers to interview each and every team member and then consolidate the results on a group graph that shows the team’s collective strengths and weaknesses, as well as the personality dynamics at play.

“We also use profiling before we hire anyone to make sure there is the right fit between the person and the position. If the position needs detail, then the person filling the position must have detail,” says Gavin. “As Jim Collins said, you must get the right people on the bus in the rights seat before you decide where the bus is going.”

With the right people on board, in the right positions, they tend to get on with the job – and with each other. “It means you don’t have to manage people,” he says. “Technology is simple and intuitive and growing the business is the easy part. People management is the hardest thing in business. It takes just one bad apple to create turmoil and dissension.”

The company doesn’t claim to have all the answers but, judging from its staff turnover, it’s doing something right. “We lost one person two years ago and we have grown, gaining three people in the past year,” Gavin says. “Understanding each other’s personalities helps me and others to interact well. It makes things a lot simpler.”

Passion4Performance

Passion4Performance

Winner of the Excellence in the Management of People award for 2018, category for emerging enterprises

Our adjudicator Dr Mthandazo Ncube shares with us their experience of Passion4Performance.

Free to make mistakes and accountable for fixing them

On a good day, the only person you can control is yourself, so attempting to control anyone else is futile. Rather let people manage themselves, have the freedom to make mistakes and be held accountable for their actions and decisions.

This is the essence of people management at online learning assessment company Passion4Performance – and while it might sound simple, it’s anything but.

“Our culture limits us in terms of who can work for us. It’s really difficult to find people who can work this way. At school and in their studies, people are not taught to think. Then they come here and have this freedom, and it’s very uncomfortable,” says Darryn Van Den Berg, founder and Visionary MD of Passion4Performance.

The uncomfortable part is that there are only two golden rules for the company’s employees. “First, you must be able to ask if you don’t know. Second, you must know if you are about to drop a ball,” says Darryn. “Our culture is that if you drop the ball, you have to pick it up.”

In other words, it’s all about consequences and accountability. “We have lots of conversations about our culture and we tend to dive into the consequences, and this is causing the uncomfortable conversations to become closer to the norm.”

Darryn recalls the time he and a young developer went to pitch for a large contract from a prospective client. “This youngster saw me as the boss and he would never say “no” if I asked him to complete a task. He said he could do the job we were pitching for and we took the risk that he could. On the pitch day, we took him with the potential client but the work was not completed and the pitch fell apart. Holding him accountable in front of the client to fix the challenges – as we were experiencing them.”

After the experience of having to explain his misjudgement to the client, this particular employee was no longer a people pleaser. “Immediately, he started saying no,” says Darryn. “Micromanaging is easy but I’m a firm believer that people must manage themselves. As far as possible, we try to create an environment where people set their own goals and targets and make their own decisions. We like people to be free from fear to make mistakes, ask for help and pick up the balls they drop.”