This, I believe:
Employees in a business are like children in a sandpit. Put the right children into your sandpit and they’ll play together for hours, building sandcastles. They may build very elaborate ones. One of them will run off to the standpipe and fetch a bucket of water and they’ll build a moat. They’ll have such a good time doing it that they will want to do it again tomorrow.
In the meantime, you can sit at the adults’ table and have a cup of coffee with the other adults. You must supervise the sandpit, but you don’t have to get involved yourself.
But you put one little bugger into that sandpit who won’t share the bucket and spade, or who thinks it is okay to kick sand in someone else’s face, and someone is going to start crying. When someone starts crying, you’re off the adults’ table and you’re back to managing the sandpit.
The most important task therefore for any business is to have a clear understanding of your own particular sandpit so that you can hire people who fit it most appropriately and retain them for the long-term.
Because this so accurately describes my own business journey I am embarking on a new project as I write this, which will explore South African business culture: what it is, how it is applied and what the lessons, the benefits and the downfalls are, across 100 great companies.
The results will come in a number of formats including a book called Building a Happy Sandpit, which I am busily researching, interviewing for, and writing.
You’ll see the full results in 2013, but I will be providing regular insights along the way because I’m truly, truly bad at keeping secrets.