Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 21st 2016 Contents Q: When you started out in
businesses, how did you deal
with team members who
constantly challenged every-
thing you did, and who chose
to do things their own way
when you were not around?
If they were confronted, how
did you deal with their re-
fusal to take responsibility
for their actions, blaming
everything or everyone else?
For five decades, I have run busi-
nesses based on a simple prin-
ciple: If you look after your
staff, they will look after your
customers. Supporting your
workers and keeping a close eye
on team morale is absolutely vital to success.
Gareth, you seem to be worried that your
employees are running all over you. Try not
to let anger cloud your judgment. It s time to
consider the underlying causes of your team
members uncooperative attitudes and seek
out solutions. Be careful --- judging by the
tone of your question, you may be in a position
where it is fairly easy to spark further discord.
First, ask yourself: What could be done to
rebuild these relationships? Could your team
benefit from further training or development?
What about more one-on-one time, or a shift
in responsibilities? When you find your
employees blaming others for things that are
going wrong, recognise that this reaction usu-
ally means that a person is feeling either
unhappy or threatened.
As you probably know by now, business is
all about relationships, partnerships and col-
laborations, and managing those relationships
often means making compromises.
Your question reminds me of an experience
I had when my friends and I at Virgin were
first considering starting up an airline. In the
1980s, a young American lawyer named Ran-
dolph Fields was seeking out investors for a
new airline to fly from London to New York.
After years of enduring awful service and worse
food on planes, I knew that a disruptive com-
pany like ours could enter the market and fill
the gap. So we joined forces and founded
Virgin Atlantic together.
However, it soon became clear that Ran-
dolph s approach was incompatible with ours.
We couldn t agree on many things --- from
naming the airline (Randolph wanted to call
it British Atlantic, and nobody wanted another
BA!), to the various license applications to the
design for a proper ticketing system.
I tried to carry on despite our differences,
but the senior team members started saying
that they just couldn t work with Randolph.
The final straw came when David Tait, who
was running our operations in the US, told
me that he was resigning. "I m sorry, but Ran-
dolph is impossible to work with," he said.
I knew that the company couldn t continue
to function, let alone grow, with such a conflict
at its core. So Randolph and I parted ways,
while Virgin Atlantic moved forward. Ending
the partnership was the best choice that I
could make to strengthen relationships within
our team, and to better position our business.
We remained friendly with Randolph, who
flew free with us for the rest of his life.
The bottom line: All relationships need to
be nurtured, whether they re with your busi-
ness colleagues or your family and friends.
I ve learned this skill in the best possible way
from my wife, Joan, who has been my partner
for 40 years. We ve taught each other to be
honest and frank when we communicate, to
give each other space, and to listen closely
when there are things that we could do to
make each other happier.
The principles aren t all that different when
you are managing your business relationships:
Maintain good lines of communication; be
willing to listen to other people s points of
view; and don t forget that, ultimately, you
need to be comfortable with your decisions.
Communicate to your team that blame is
truly unproductive, and emphasise that in
order to build trust within the group, all mem-
bers need to take responsibility for their actions
and face up to the consequences. If any of
your employees are unwilling to work pro-
ductively as part of a team, then you need to
take action before morale is affected. You
should never compromise on your business s
purpose, your vision for it or your quality of
service, and if a partnership with a team mem-
ber in some way impinges on any of those
things, it s OK if that association comes to an
That said,remember that when staff choose
to do things their own way, it can be very
useful for your company. If everybody thought
the same way, not only would it be a very
boring world, but you d also have a very stag-
nant business. Diversity within the workforce
is tremendously beneficial, and this extends
to employees who think and operate in different
The same goes for having team members
who sometimes challenge a leader s decisions.
If handled correctly, opposing voices can help
you grow the business. In my case, I surround
myself with people who I believe are better
than me in their specific areas of expertise,
and then I get out of their way, delegate to
them and try to give them as much support
Focusing on communication and delegation
might be key to extracting yourself from this
situation, Gareth. Good luck!
(Richard Branson is the founder of the
Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin
Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and
Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at
can follow him on Twitter at
twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more
about the Virgin Group: www.virgin.com.)
(Questions from readers will be answered
in future columns. Please send them to
Richard.Branson@nytimes.com. Please include
your name, country, email address and the
name of the Web site or publication where
you read the column.)
APRIL 21 • 2016 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG13
Temper bad attitudes
by building relationships
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