Upside Down Leadership and Timpson’s Success

A recent series of solo car journeys has seen me turn to podcasts for entertainment and the opportunity to catch up on the back catalogue of Desert Island Discs.  Businessman John Timpson kept me company on the journey to Leeds this weekend and resonated on lots of levels – particularly because I’ve regularly experienced great service in Timpson.

One of our Leading Edge beliefs is that “People Aren’t Broken’.  10% of Timpson employees are “second chancers” who have served time in prison.  Standing firm against the initial Sun headlines of “Cons what learn to cut keys”, John believes that these individuals are not only fantastic employees, but have also had a role in educating and inspiring their colleagues.  Sitting behind this is a rigorous interview/vetting process that focuses on ‘setting people up to succeed’ by measuring potential and personality.

One of the models we love in Leading Edge is ‘Leadership Upside Down’.  Great to hear John describe this approach – changing the role of managers from telling people what to do, to creating the team, helping them and letting them have the freedom to do what’s required to serve customers (this took 5 years to convince middle management about – no-one said culture change happens overnight!).  Oh, and team members each have up to £500 to spend as they choose to deal with customer complaints – John reckons this saves the business hundreds of pounds, as it ‘nips issues in the bud’.

Compressed Change of Leadership Style

So along with a range of other employee benefits, such as a day off on their Birthday and free access to holiday homes it’s no surprise that Timpson has appeared in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work for list on the five occasions it entered.  As John says “you don’t have to by a tyrant to be successful.  All the evidence says you can do good and run a good business”.  A great example to share with anyone looking to understand more about Leadership and Employee Engagement.

John Timpson’s Desert Island Discs:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b074vw94

Sam Eddleston
Learning Curator and Team Coach