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Our first South Yorkshire Masterclass of 2020 saw us hold a panel event on ‘Managing People and Leadership’. 

The panel consisted of Kevin Parkin Founder of Parkin Limited, Dame Julie Kenny Founder of Pyronix and Rita Hobson CEO of Support Dogs, chaired by our Partner Phil Harris from Brown Shipley

The opening question was around the age old one, what is leadership and management, and are they different? 

The key thoughts of the panel were that they are linked together, especially for business leaders who need to set the values and lead from the front ensuring that they are leading by example. 

Kevin explained that he felt they are both interlinked, and that especially when dealing with start ups, you have to be both a leader and a manager. You have to set the policies and maintain consistency, and you have to live by the policies you set, whilst being part of the team, and asking for help. 

Rita added that the policies and putting people in the right roles is the management side, where as being part of the team, and the attitude of “I won’t ask you to do something I wouldn’t do” is the leadership element. 

Julie detailed that you have to display the core values, and you don’t necessarily have to be the first in and the last out, whilst part of leadership is allowing natural leaders to have an opportunity to develop whilst you manage. 

Julie added that in a past company she had a programme of promote/demote. 

In it a member of staff could spend 3 months having a go at a role they wanted, when the position came up, and if after 3 months she didn’t think they were right for it, or they didn’t feel they were right for it, they could return to their old post with no loss of face. 


The discussion then turned to culture within business and the panel agreed that sometimes managers aren’t the best people to deal with a problem, and that if you select the right people you can give staff the responsibility to solve a problem, especially if you are their to other support and guidance. 

Rita added that you need to involve staff in decision making and let them see the end result. 

Kevin detailed that culture is about making people love the company and enjoy coming to work, as you can’t afford to lose your best people, and those people need to feel part of the team. 

Julie explained that culture and values are effectively the same, and that management needs to follow the same values and these need to be clear and easy to explain to all staff, especially new staff, and embedded into the induction process. 

Julie further added that you need to listen to staff and not to be afraid to make mistakes as after all everyone is in it together.

Kevin included the point that communication is key, you need to motivate staff and understand their aspirations.

Although, some will also be obstinate and difficult, but don’t be afraid to challenge, as most people will fit it or will eventually leave. 

Rita explained that she has changed the interview process over time to ensure it supports the business, and to ensure as best as it can it helps to recruit the most suited people for the company. Whilst, also having regular one-to-ones with staff to understand where they are, and where they want to be. 

Developing Talent

When it comes to developing staff and the talent in the business, a range of options were given from the panel. 

Julie explained how a link to universities and colleges is useful to invest in people, especially if a BA or MSc is required, but that it is useful to obtain a commitment from them to stay after they have done it, or pay back the whole or part of the cost if they leave within 2 years of the course or qualification finishing, especially due to the financial implication. Julie also added, training people is never a wasted process, as you might train someone and they might leave, but they might also come back and to never close a door behind you. 

Rita added, that you need to invest and train people, and some may leave, but you will also retain people and keep those skills in the business, but without doing it you won’t know. Albeit, some may also leave and come back to you, bringing even more skills with them. 

Kevin stated how it is important to ensure that there is a skills gap analysis for each role and that if you highlight a training need, you tap into any funding available to support you. 

(If you are a South Yorkshire business, you can look at a range of funding initiatives in the SCR.)

Julie added that on a personal note you can get a lot back from volunteer roles, which you can then use in business, and that the university of life is a great educator.  

Rita explained that charity work can assist and develop the skills of business owners, whilst also allowing them to give something back, which can also help the charities themselves. 

Formal Qualifications

Formal qualifications were discussed and if an MBA etc were really needed to run a business. 

The panel explained that if you are looking to become a trustee you need to understand the legal implications and the safeguarding responsibilities first, to give you an informed perspective of the role. 

For volunteering roles the panel agreed that you need to make sure you receive the right training for the role, and you understand the role you are volunteering for.

Julie added that attitude and aptitude are key and you can learn without it being formal, with the key being happiness in your role. 

Kevin detailed that the key in a business is to make sure you have the mandatory qualifications in place such as Health and Safety and accounting, and whatever else is mandatory for your industry. Everything else is a bonus. 


The panel agreed that motivation is key to a business, whether you’re managing paid staff or volunteers. 

Rita explained that the key is to have people who love their job, and then to make sure you engage and consult with them, allowing them to be empowered and support the business, making them involved and giving them the freedom to share their ideas and information to help them and the business grow, whilst also looking at team building opportunities such as team yoga, which has worked well for her. 

Kevin added how he used a 4.5 day week to motivate staff, whilst ensuring the business was covered, but driving productivity, as people felt fresher on a Monday and had a longer weekend, feeling more motivated to do their role. 

Julie detailed how saying thank you can go a long way and how she holds a celebration event twice a year to say thank you to her staff for their work, and how she holds communication days to ensure they understand what has happened in the business, and what is going to happen. 

Julie also included how motivation isn’t just about more money, but can be about an extra holiday day, home working or other methods. 

Remote working

A hot topic at present, and one more and more businesses are looking at. The general consensus of the panel was that remote working can work, but not in all industries, and not for everyone. Especially, as you often can’t do manufacturing whilst being a remote worker. 

Rita’s thoughts were that you need to determine who can do it, as it can support skill retention if people have the opportunity, and if need be you can look at part time working.

Julie detailed how it can have a significant benefit to the business, and the motivation of staff, so long as you know when people are working from home, especially with modern technology as people can be monitored and tracked, whilst ensuring they are given suitable KPIs they can be managed to. 

Kevin explained that it can be done, and it is a case of communicating with people to ensure it works for them and the business. He also added that business is about talking to people, and with a reliance on sending emails it can be easier and more personal to talk to them, to receive instant feedback and an instant reaction. He talked about how in his businesses he has carried out stand up meetings as a method of communication using prompt starts, no coffee and only 5 or 6 points to ensure a smooth meeting and quick decision making, with people who can’t be there dialling in. 

In turnaround businesses Kevin said that you have to build confidence in staff to make decisions and this can be done, by you being remote, meaning they are on site and can make the decision, and you are there to assist if needed, but the aim needs to be to test and check, meaning can people manage when you aren’t there? 

He also recommended asking people to produce a 5 point action plan from a meeting if you can’t attend, this keeps things short and to the point. 

Kevin also went on to explain that motivation isn’t the same for everyone, so you need to find out what this is, and work with them to support them, as they will ultimately support the business. 

Julie stated that if people aren’t supporting the company, you need to manage them honestly, and if this means managing them out, then this needs to be done properly and efficiently, and it may mean that you need to get some good HR advice. 

Rita added that her 3 tips in regards to this are: 

Kevin added that managing people out is important, but not to forget that you need to give staff every opportunity to develop first, especially as some may need the training.