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Why looking after your team is more important than making a fat profit

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The Creative Copywriter on the benefits of prioritizing people and a healthy work environment over profit

Business is all about growing those revenues and making a fat profit, right?

Nope. Not in my book.

When you own a business, it’s easy to think that the route to success is to drive full steam ahead to as much profit as possible, in as short an amount of time as you can.

And yes, I’ve worked in places like that – I’m sure you have too.

The kind of place where revenue and profit-obsessed managers create a pretty unhappy working environment, with employees who are frustrated, unmotivated and unproductive.

When you focus primarily on making money rather than caring for your people, you’re on a one-way street to creating an inefficient work environment – one that’s as unhealthy mentally as it is counterproductive.

This approach has never made sense to me. Firstly, if you create a happy work environment, then you also get to enjoy it. After all, you’re a human being too, and you have the same needs as your team members. Shocking, I know...

Sure, you can take on any project that is offered to you without any scrutiny. But you run a serious risk of taking too much on as you race to rake in more and more money at the expense of your team’s (and your own) happiness.

And secondly, when you just focus on growing your revenues, you will often feel overworked along with your team. This combination leads to a multitude of problems, from unproductive members to simply delivering bad work.

This in turn leads to focusing more on fire-fighting than on the work at hand, and your business as a whole, which can then lead to clients leaving you, which can then seriously damage your reputation and... well, you see where I’m going with this.

Very recently, our creative agency had a client who was bringing in a pretty hefty amount of money. But this client was draining the team with their unreasonable demands and relentless nitpicking. So we decided it would be better to fire the client ourselves than to completely burn out our team (which would have probably led to the client ditching us anyway).

By making this move we demonstrated to the team that we truly have their back, and that their happiness and wellbeing matter to us. We came out the other end with the team having more energy, motivation and dedication (as well as capacity) to take on new clients than ever before.

So, how do you keep your team with big beaming smiles on their faces?

Let’s take a look...

1. Give them a work/life balance (and mean it)

A ton of companies say that they believe in a work/life balance. But actually putting that into practice means you truly care about employees getting their much-needed downtime.

Build a culture that lets your team know that you want – and expect – them to not be chained to their desk. You want them to be out there living their lives too.

For example, if someone wants to work an extra day from home one week – what’s the big deal? Life happens. It’s about more than just offering structured flexible working arrangements. It’s about being truly flexible to accommodate your employees’ daily life needs.

Also try and avoid situations where employees are taking their work home with them. In an ideal world, as soon as they walk out the door, work should be put to the back of their minds.

As I say to my team all the time: “We’re not heart surgeons – we’re allowed to switch off.”

2. Make them kings and queens of their own domains

How many times have you felt like your opinion truly didn’t count?

It’s so damaging to happiness when you feel ignored, or that you don’t matter. If you turn this on its head and make your employees feel that they’re respected, they will be far more content and feel more in control of their areas – and, as a result, more productive.

We operate with a flat structure, with no hierarchy. Each and every person takes ownership of their role, and knows how valued they truly are.

3. Treat your employees like the adults they are

It all comes down to trust. Firstly, you need to employ people who you trust will work toward the greater good of the company. They need to care about its success. And once you trust them, you can allow people to do things the way they want to.

In our agency, we’re task-based, with defined flexitime. Anyone in the team knows that they’re trusted to take flexitime on their own terms.

And the result is that my team are happy to be trusted. They’re not watched over like children who might do something wrong or naughty.

4. Create a light environment that everyone wants to be in

You want your employees to know that their jobs are important. But you can still do this in a light environment, where it’s OK to make mistakes. One of the biggest causes of stress in the workplace is the fear of doing something wrong.

Of course, everyone makes mistakes. However, when you take that stress away by showing that you have their back, it’s a huge relief. And what happens is your team comes together and supports each other as a result.

Finger pointing is a big no-no. We solve problems together.

5. Focus on personal development

When employees feel like they’re not progressing it can cause deep unhappiness. That can lead to losing some of your best people.

Make sure you’re putting regular one-on-ones in place, where your team can talk about how they’re feeling. Mental health should be a big focus during these meetings, leaving criticism at the door.

Spend the one-on-one time getting to know your team on an individual basis, discovering what makes them tick and what their goals are. Being listened to rather than being shut down is an important ingredient of happiness in the workplace.

Check out this handy article for solid advice on pulling off effective one-on-ones.

The bottom line is, we all want to be happy. And we all deserve to be. But above all, happy people make revenues grow automatically. So you’ll have a more productive content and engaged team. And low and behold – fat profits!

Nitzan Regev-Sanders, managing director at The Creative Copywriter.

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