I never thought of myself as a disruptor. But a former boss of mine said I was the most disruptive person he’d ever worked with. He meant it as a compliment!
These were the words of Michelle Richardson, Operations Director for MC Construction and one of 4 guest speakers at the recent fbe Manchester Networking Breakfast at the Radisson Manchester (that’s Forum for the Built Environment). The theme of the morning was ‘New Disruptors’ and each presentation explored the positive side of those individuals and companies who like to drive change.
I was in the audience to support quantity surveyors Poole Dick, ably represented from the stage by its chairman Steve Connolly, himself no fan of the status quo! Steve told the story of some major changes his company had undergone in recent years and how a lot of this stemmed from a client survey he’d commissioned which revealed that Poole Dick was seen as “a safe pair of hands but a little dull.”
Steve liked the first bit but to be viewed as a little boring got under his skin – action had to be taken!
Back to that in a moment…
Michelle also mentioned how she’d never thought of her company as being worthy of the epithet ‘disruptor’, given what the likes of Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb have done in their sectors.
This reminded me of the theme of another event I attended recently – everyday leadership.
The idea here is that leadership is often given a lofty status; it’s something that great people like Gandhi, Mandela and Malala do. It’s associated with countries and movements, but by seeing it that way it’s easy to disqualify ourselves from ‘doing leadership’. Perhaps we’re not important enough or doing big enough things for it to count.
To my mind, disruption is a kind of leadership and it can come from anywhere and take all forms. I love the fact that MC Construction have two office dogs, and that employees are encouraged to take them for walks during the day – a tonic for both parties. I think it’s great that they reimburse the entry fees employees pay when they enter and complete a charity fun run. Both initiatives demonstrate a belief in employee wellbeing.
Poole Dick have also taken a disruptive path by focusing on culture, workplace environment and skill development. Taking the Inside-Out approach means investing on the inside to ensure the best levels of client delivery on the outside.
For Poole Dick that’s meant everything from storytelling sessions to tours of other disruptive companies, plus a focus on soft skills and innovative staff recognition systems.
These ideas are not earth-shattering in scale. We’re not talking about reducing crime, solving poverty or ridding the oceans of plastic. But each piece of micro-disruption has a cumulative effect, and it’s within the scope of all of us to drive positive change in our workplace and elsewhere.
It also struck me that although some of the ideas presented by our speakers involved modern technology (eg apps, virtual reality, etc), some ‘disruptive initiatives’ took the form of very established concepts like employee wellbeing, recognition, sharing stories and the need for human connection. They’re all valuable deposits in the disruption bank.
Let me finish by thanking Stewart Grant and his colleagues at fbe Manchester for putting on a magnificent event, and to sponsors Turley. There isn’t room here to detail the change-making efforts of the other two speakers who graced the stage – Michelle Rothwell from Watch This Space and Will Lewis from OBI Property.
Their stories (equally inspiring) deserve a space of their own.