The uneasy balance of passion, craft and expectation in work

I would argue that over the last three months, I have met more stressed, under pressure executives seeking something more from their work lives than at any period in the last twenty five years. At the same time, I find often a level of personal satisfaction and positivity from those that  focus on delivering a real craft – culinary, sporting, and artistic.

By Chris Sheppardson, Managing Director, EP

Of course the argument is that the latter group sit away from the commercial pressures and this is fair enough but regardless there is a genuine disconnect that is not healthy. It is not perfect when one can easily witness directors and leaders struggling to enjoy the day to day, thinking often with a narrow mind set as it is this group that do set the tone for many companies. It probably does suggest that we are working our way through a tough period of time whatever the official figures may say. The results may well still be good but at what price?

One CEO recently privately confided – “It is a bit like having your soul sucked out of you… you lose your flair and creativity as you face one battle after another”. Another joked “Yes I love board meetings as I feel myself pulled through a hedge backwards.”

“Maybe there are others ways of bringing in experienced senior players to aid the thinking and approach of those under pressure?”

Let me now outline another contradiction – the hospitality industry has never been better regarded, more respected and attractive regardless of what you may hear from others. Many external to the sector find the industry exciting and inspirational. Food has never been more important nor higher profile. There is more knowledge amongst consumers about wines and produce. This picture is rosy.

Of course it would be naïve to suggest that companies should relieve some of the pressures being placed upon senior executives as of course, the system does demand and search for stronger performance – so how can we solve the clearly contradictory and uneasy relationship between those that lead business, and those that deliver craft?

At the same time, many are opting out of corporate life and moving towards either the gig economy or entrepreneurial concerns – but the latter too are complaining of increased barriers to their growth – from the practices of buyers to GDPR to payment terms. One exceptional entrepreneur recently signed off saying “How can I promise an ROI to my investors when in truth my life is controlled by between 15-25 buyers who have no real experience of running a business themselves. We are asking risk takers and entrepreneurs to be dominated by middle managers with an agenda. It doesn’t work”

This is a complex landscape. Many leaders are struggling with the pressures and stresses. Many emerging talent are struggling too, which creates a barrier to new ideas and energy – so we do need to consider whether such a road is sustainable? Or is there new solutions to be found?

Logic would suggest that there are new methods to be employed and maybe, especially during the Brexit process – which whether we agree with it or not was the vote of the country – that business tries to have a long term view that can work sensibly alongside the Brexit strategy of finding new areas of growth? Maybe there are others ways of bringing in experienced senior players to aid the thinking and approach of those under pressure? It is not my idea but there is merit in the idea of shadow boards made up of those experienced consultants that can bring different perspectives and support to a board.

However the good news is that those that do seem to be finding satisfaction are those that find joy in their craft – in creating quality, in finding joy in raising the bar in what can be produced and delivered to consumers.

Could we, logic suggests, see a new era develop which sees the artisan/craft producer and creative rise to the fore?

Entrepreneurs and innovation also thrives and if this voice can be freed up enough, then we could see an exciting new landscape emerge.