We are discovering more and more about failings at the major sports retailer. With such a huge example being made, it’s our responsibility to learn from it.
It seemed that things couldn’t get much worse for Sports Direct, having recently been embroiled in controversy surrounding huge issues like minimum wage, zero hour contracts, and shareholder revolt. Then, founder Mike Ashley pulls out a wad of £50 notes during a HQ tour and ‘open day’, surrounded by (we assume), many of his aforementioned minimum wage and / or zero hour contract employees.
No matter the size of your organisation, lessons can be learned from the leadership example set by Sports Direct or comparative examples such as BHS and Sir Philip Green.
- Keep it real
Ashley stated to MPs during a recent Business Select Committee that he wasn’t aware of much that was going on. So, essentially he failed to spot signs that would have surely indicated what was really going on. Was he unaware or did he turn a blind eye?
What can we learn: Whether unaware or not, as a leader the buck stops with him and the Board, and ignorance is no excuse for failings, no matter how big or small they are.
- Focus on engagement
Much has been commented on about the Sports Direct six strikes policy, which bred a culture of fear and job insecurity for staff making minor misdemeanors. This is just one example of how antiquated HR policies set at the top filter down to influence the feel and performance of an organisation.
What can we learn: Putting effort into developing a positive organisational culture, reducing staff turnover and increasing employee engagement must be viewed as a priority as well as being great for the bottom line of any business.
- Inspire through leadership
Sports Direct has taken a forceful and contentious path to growing the brand, largely through dominant and neglectful leadership. This leads us to bigger questions about the organisational strategy, goals and values of Sports Direct which were clearly aligned to pounds and pence rather than other positive outcomes, which in turn has informed their culture and approach to lacklustre employee care and engagement.
What can we learn: With an aligned approach, the same outcome that is more sustainable could well have been achieved through an influential, inclusive and nurturing approach to leadership (albeit perhaps over a longer timeline).
An example like Sports Direct teaches us that there is always much that we can learn about the leadership influence in our own organisations and the subsequent impact on culture, engagement and overall success.