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Steve Jones

Steve Jones on motivational potential

By Steve Jones

Managing Director - Skills for Business Training Ltd

Since his early career contributions to the rapid growth of Fitness First, Steve Jones’ biography has been a myriad of motivational masterfulness: from specialising in coaching SMEs for fast growth at Shirlaws UK, to co-chairing the UK Government Task Force Team that looked at employee engagement, to establishing his own coaching business over a decade ago.

Under Steve’s mentorship, Skills for Business Training Ltd, supports companies to experience fast growth in several ways, including attracting and retaining talent through harnessing the full potential and capabilities of their people. He has also penned several books and speaks regularly at business events to share his sagacity.

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Can you give us some examples of the types of businesses you support?

I primarily work with fast-growth SMEs to help them understand how to strategically achieve fast growth and great leadership, including understanding how to put great leadership teams together.

As a company grows it’s important to keep the ‘essence’ of that business as it grows; attracting and keeping the right people is imperative to that growth; and creating the right culture is essential in achieving this and this is something I focus on with leaders.

I’ve worked across all sectors with clients such as Ellis Jones and Dutton Gregory in the law fraternity; to organisations like BBD Boom - HubSpot experts; local authorities like BCP Council; Inspire Professional Services (Accountancy); Aish Technology (Defence Industry). Most recently I’ve been working with Waste Management Facilities in Bournemouth who have double their turnover in the last year and look to do the same again this year.

My work sometimes takes me further afield where for example I’ve worked with Risk Advisory Service in London, National Crime Solutions in Birmingham, and some international work.

I’ve recently returned from Abu Dhabi, where I’ve been working with Etihad Aviation, where I’m embedding MOJO, a tool to describe, measure, monitor and maximise motivation in businesses to drive productivity. During the week I trained 60+ managers in this revolutionary process. I also run employee engagement courses in Dubai and Kuala Lumper. The corporate engagement area of my business seems to be growing with HSBC and Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi showing interest in working with us.

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A big part of what you’re doing is motivating other people; what motivates you?

I woke up one morning years ago when I was about 23 and realised: I’d spend most of my life sleeping, the rest working, and I’d have some social time, so I decided whatever I did work-wise better motivate me and if not don’t moan do something else.

My top three motivations are to be creative: original thinking outside the box. To have freedom and independence to choose what I want to do and who I want to work with. And I like to make sure what I do adds value.

As a coach, author, and speaker, how do you find these separate specialisms complement each other?

I enjoy speaking engagements as they help me to generate business.

My work as an author came about because of speaking engagements. I used to do a presentation on how to position your business for success and every time I did it people wanted to know if I had a book on it, so my fate was sealed as an author.

A lot of coaches are prescriptive I’m not; I use a coaching methodology when working with clients to create a framework for discussion. I take best practices and see whether they fit within a company. It’s not prescriptive; it’s giving ways of thinking differently so that businesses can decide what they like and embed into their organisation.

"Right now, there's the war for talent: it's hard to find good people and it's hard to keep good people."

Are there some common challenges that businesses have?

Right now, there’s the ‘war for talent’: it’s hard to find good people and it’s hard to keep good people. It links back to getting your employee engagement and culture right.

I’m seeing across all organisations right now that the supply chain is awkward, and the cost-of-living rise is causing problems.

We’re also seeing challenges with people not coming back into the workplace which is why the government has a drive to get over 50s back into the workplace.

This is linked to what’s been called ‘the great resignation’ where individuals are either quitting completely – having seen alternatives choices through covid – or worst still quietly quitting: people are marking time and maybe aren’t as motivated as they could be. This is where getting engagement right with your teams, and your business is going stave off this problem and at least maintain and at best improve productivity — that’s the area that I see people struggling with. In one company we identified as many as five key employees that were primed to leave, but with some understanding and persuasion from the Managing Partner they stayed – saving a fortune in recruitment and skill deficit costs.

In my experience, people aren’t trained in leadership; they often fall into leadership roles, typically without the skill sets and as a result the leadership teams they appoint, invariably don’t have the skill sets either. No entrepreneur I know started a business to lead and manage staff, they start a business to follow a passion yet end up in a leadership role. You then get inconsistency in leadership and productivity as a result.

What’s your process for helping businesses to overcome those challenges?

Amongst my armoury, I have a four-day leadership programme which I deliver over two months; it covers everything needed to build a company that can grow fast and be an employer choice.

It’s designed for leaders and leadership teams to understand how to lead and manage properly and to build a company that will grow, and that people want to join.

Young people today won’t just take a job, they’ll wait for the right opportunity, therefore your business has to be attractive to them: it has to be ethical; it has to be right; it has to have a purpose. They’re looking for different things in companies now, and organisations must deliver those things if they’re going to attract the best talent.

What are you working on right now?

A colleague and I have created a platform called ‘Mojo’ which is a 90-day rolling programme where we look at the motivations of staff to harness their full potential. It’s a system that we train organisation and their leaders and managers to implement to drive productivity. Our first client just happened to be Etihad’s.

I’m increasingly getting asked to mentor and coach MD’s and as a result, I’d like to do a bit more around growth for organisations and personal development for individuals because I used to do a lot of personal development work. There are other areas I think I could develop in the personal coaching space for MDs; I’m thinking about putting a programme together around the mindset of an MD.

I’m also curious to learn what OBS members would like to work on next year, and what ‘one’ thing they’d ‘fix’ in their businesses, given the chance.

"I think there is a great resignation going on where individuals are quiet quitting: people are marking time and maybe aren’t as motivated as they could be."

Managing Director - Skills for Business Training Ltd

Can you tell us something that not many people know about you?

In a previous life, I was Tina Turner’s bodyguard — a long story for another time!

What personal philosophies do you live by?

One of my philosophies is to be around positive people: I try to make sure I don’t have any negative people in my life.

My 3 main philosophies are:

  1. Stay in Context: Don’t get drawn into the drama stay strategic.
  2. Manage the Energy: Make sure you are managing your energy and those of your people.
  3. Coach Don’t Play: Ask not ‘how I do this?’ but instead ask ‘who else could do it?’

Steve Jones