Today I met a remarkable man. Ian Smith is chair of Bishop Fleming, the accountancy firm that has made The Sunday Times ‘Top 100 companies to work for‘ list for the last 4 years, as well as a string of regional awards for excellence in professional services and Investors in People. For Ian, the success of the firm is down to developing the right people; experts in their field who are interested in developing their clients’ businesses. Ian’s ‘little black book ‘is legendary and he prides himself in making introductions from his personal network.
Ian’s responsibilities on the Board include diversity and inclusion. As a carer himself, he understands that people often have responsibilities outside the workplace, and they may take steps to keep them hidden from colleagues. He calls this their ‘invisible baggage’ and he knows that these people are under unrelenting pressure. He is someone who definitely leads by example. Ian takes active steps to look after his mental and physical health so that he can balance his demanding role at the company he loves with the caring role in his personal life. He talked to me about the challenges people face when they first encounter something they cannot simply ‘fix’. Ian has found his own methods that really work in practice so that this isn’t a barrier in his professional life.
Despite his busy schedule, he’s generous with his time too, and he’ll be one of the guest speakers at the “Mark’s Mental Health Marathon” seminars. Bishop Fleming staff are actively involved in charities – this year they are aiming to raise £100K to mark their centenary year and recently 120 of their staff took part in the Bath half marathon. Others are undertaking the 3 Peaks Challenge or taking part in a 4-day walking challenge to walk 100 miles.
So what are the secrets to his success?
- Self-discipline and sticking to a routine
Ian is firm believer that in order to look after your team, you first need to look after yourself. For the last 13 years Ian has had a weekly session with his fitness trainer. Recently he has seen a Shiatsu practitioner twice as month as well. Shiatsu is a holistic approach to fitness and isn’t just physical fitness but includes monitoring and managing diet, sleep patterns, massage and manipulation. The aim is to release endorphins which promote an overall feeling of well-being. Ian is a very focussed, driven person himself and he’s learned that the value of sitting under a tree doing nothing or walking the dog can be as beneficial as going on a weekend away to play golf (which often gets competitive).
- Understand both your own and your team members resilience to stress.
Ian explained the ‘Stress Bucket’ concept to me. Everybody has a different ability to deal with stress, so whilst some people seem to thrive on it and perform very well under constant pressure (they have a skip sized ‘bucket’), others find that they need to keep stress at a much lower level to function well ( imagine these people with a thimble). At any time, life is adding stress into the top of the bucket, so the level is always increasing, whilst we can empty it through our own personal tap at the base. Everyone has a different relieving ‘tap’ which could be getting better sleep, quiet reading, socialising with friends, stroking a pet etc.
By getting to know your team better, and what causes and relieves stress levels, you can direct them at work to make the most of their talents and interests and avoid situations or job roles that are unsuitable for them. At Bishop Fleming, managers and staff are encouraged to have these conversations so that the root causes of stress are identified and can be dealt with, for example by finding the right person to talk to. Without this support network at work, people will often take a medical approach, when sleeping tablets or anti-depressants may be offered, which doesn’t address the issues causing stress in the first place. Both approaches have their place, but a good support network can mean medicines may not be needed.
- Adopt the Radical Candour methodology
This is a concept developed by Kim Scott, who has worked with Google, Apple, Twitter and is a New Your Times bestselling author. Her new approach, which has been adopted at Bishop Fleming, helps managers have honest feedback discussions with their team, and, as a result, achieve a happier and more productive workplace.
Mark Smith is very grateful for the support offered by Ian Smith, both as a corporate sponsor and speaker at the seminars. You can find out more details about the seminars here .