Managing Change and Empowering Success


Date: Monday 14th July 2014

Venue: Quantum Shipping Services Ltd, Artillery House, 35 Artillery Lane, London. E1 7LP

Host: David Buffin

Speaker: David Buffin, Managing Director of Buffin Leadership International

Subject: “Managing Change and Empowering Success”

Report by James Brewer

14th-july-2014-managing-change-and-empowering-successOur Chairman, Jim Davis, said that Mr Buffin’s theme was “a subject we all badly need instruction on.”

Mr Buffin began by setting the scene and posing key questions: “One thing is permanent in our life, and that is change. How do we manage change, and how do we empower our people for success, and more importantly, how do we engage and ensure the commitment of our people for change?”

The trade of global commodities was expected to increase fourfold, but the prospects of global economies improving could be threatened unless there was an understanding of a number of key challenges: tighter regulation, managing risk, environmental awareness and operational costs. “The key is empowerment and connection of our people in the face of change.”

Mr Buffin presented a case study of a business employing around 300 people that had gone through lots of change, and tripled in financial value in the past three or four years. Empowerment meant taking the responsibility for ownership of what you do.

It was important to bring on the younger people in a business. The wisdom that comes from young people is that they begin to tackle situations and do not necessarily go with the status quo.

There was a need for vision and for co-operation. “We see horrible examples of total lack of co-operation in every field of human endeavour.”

What of the pain and the strain of the challenge: “don’t you think this is daunting?”

All change is driven, by and large, by human emotions, said Mr Buffin.

He outlined a model which he called the Strategic Compass, which looks at how you are going to accomplish the vision. The key is to get on to the success cycle.

People at the top needed to involve people with a change team, to produce a road map and step change strategy. “If you want to break through to change, everyone has got to be involved. In a very big business, if everybody knows what the goal is and what the future focus is, you are 90% of the way there, and then you are going to get the commitment.”

Leadership on safety was a prime area: the leadership and psychology behind being safe is the number one need we all had.

Turning to the question of monetary reward, the speaker observed. “Money below the basic rate does not motivate. Promotion, development and learning: that is what motivates people.”

He approved of the maritime motto, that a disciplined ship is a happy ship.

A member of the audience interjected that employees in a business might not sign up to what was being done.  Mr Buffin: “Why is it that they don’t agree? There will be a reason why [an employee] does not care.” In one instance, he had mentored “30 or 40 people who did not care – and I could use a stronger expression – and they did not like it for four or five years. Now you go there, and they are fully empowered. The others will go with you once they understand it and once the trust is built. I am not saying it is easy. It takes time, but there are tools we can use.”

From the floor, a delegate persisted: “When they get used to what they are doing, they don’t want to change.” Mr Buffin: “Of course they don’t, because they fear it.”

Another comment: “There are a lot of examples in our industry where you cannot cut through the structure,” that of ship owners having different responsibilities from ship managers.

Mr Buffin said that what was important was what you believed fundamentally “because that affects all who work for you.”

He emphasised that behaviour drives results, and what drives behaviour was emotions. What drives emotions is physiology, language and belief. If you change the behaviour, you will change the results.

Look at how much money could be saved if you had a better style of leadership. People have to understand where they are going and to have some kind of a future in prospect.”

On that confidence aspect, he asked the audience to stand and to affirm (“Look like you really mean it”) “I feel great.”

“You have to find things in life that give you a purpose and a sense of determination,” Mr Buffin continued.

He showed a slide with a notional ship that he named HMS Human Capital “that takes you from the port I call pain, to the port I call pleasure… and results.”

He urged executives to “focus on better quality language in terms of communication.”

Jim Davis remarked that discipline was vitally important, and Mr Buffin replied: “I think that sort of thing is key. But you cannot say to someone you will use more discretionary effort. The way people do things is because they are conditioned or fearful” and it was necessary to go beyond that.

Mr Davis: “You have given us something to think about.  We shall surely mull it over.”

The chairman expressed thanks to Jean Richards of Quantum Shipping Services for kindly providing the venue.