Andy Wright column: ‘you get the teams you deserve’
07 August 2023
What lessons has 34 years in the rental industry taught IRN columnist Andy Wright? This month, he looks at leadership and ‘words and actions’.
I joined the rental industry as a very shy 22-year-old sales engineer with Aggreko, way back in 1989.
Apparently, those 34 years in the industry now qualifies me for veteran status, which is something that I’m still struggling to come to terms with!
I’ve worked with and known an incredible number of super-talented people who have all, knowingly or unknowingly, played a part in helping me to become who I am today and who have taught me many lessons along the way.
I thought it might be a good idea to use the next few articles to pass on some of the key lessons that I have learnt from a lifetime in rental.
These are all things that have served me well as I have traversed along my personal journey in this wonderful industry. So, here we go.
Lesson #1: You get the people you deserve
About six weeks after joining Aggreko in April 1989, I had the surprise opportunity to attend a management training course.
Now, it’s a long time ago but there is one thing that I still remember from the course - it’s etched on my brain - and has guided me throughout my career.
The lesson learnt is that as a leader, you get the people that you deserve in your team.
Fundamentally, as a leader, you are responsible for creating the culture of the organisation. Leaders who are fair, open, consultative, and honest are usually leaders who are trusted by their teams.
The trust that leaders give to their teams is, in my experience reciprocated from the team to the leader and this creates a positive working environment for everyone.
The ability to create trust between the leader and the team is priceless and is a real turbocharger towards business growth and high levels of performance, because it means that people can take calculated risks, feeling that they are both empowered and operating in a safe environment.
This is critical in the rental environment because it’s our people that make the difference to the quality of the service that we give to our customers and if they are happy in their work and feeling valued for what they do, the customer gets the benefit of this.
It’s in the hands of the leader to create this environment. If you have dissatisfied employees then the first place to look is at yourself and the culture that you have created.
Lesson #2: Consistent words and actions are critical
So, apart from being a fair, open, consultative, and honest leader, what else must we do to build this environment of trust?
Well, in my view, nothing damages the circle of trust between the manager and the team more than when the words and actions of the leader or the leadership team don’t match.
The reality is that words are cheap, and they can easily damage the fragile relationship between manager and employee if they aren’t backed up by what happens in practice.
The flip side to this is obviously that if words and actions are consistent, there is nothing that builds that all-important trust between work colleagues and their manager faster, and this will ensure that the positive circle of trust is sustainable, which is a fundamental driver of employee satisfaction and engagement.
In a business such as Sunbelt, where we have multiple specialist business units, often working as a stand-alone business but also often working together with other parts of the group of expert organisations that make up Sunbelt as a whole, there must also be trust between and across businesses as we deliver a world class, joined-up service to our customers.
And of course, nothing damages the trust between a business and its customers more than when the words and actions of the business doesn’t match what has been promised and we let the customers down after they have made plans around what we have promised to do.
Doing what we say we will do for customers is at the very core of our strategy and this consistent application of our actions matching our words has profound implications to the continued success of our and any business operating in the rental sector.
People bring success
So, treating people as you would like to be treated and getting the people and the teams that you deserve is critical to future success. It builds a level of trust that improves overall business performance and strength, and this position is best created through us consistently ensuring that our words and actions match, which in turn affects employee engagement and customer satisfaction.
These are two lessons that I have learnt over the years, and they have served me well throughout my career. I’m looking forward to sharing more with you next time.
Andy Wright is CEO of Sunbelt Rentals UK and an experienced senior executive in the rental equipment sector. His career began in 1989, leading to roles including Managing Director Northern Europe at Aggreko, International Chief Executive of Lavendon Group and Managing Director UK & Ireland at Speedy Services.