Brian McCarthy, Chairman of the McCarthy Motor Group, displayed the following quote in his office:
“ Men are valuable just in proportion as they are able and willing to work in harmony with other men”
These words, in fairly large print, were elegantly framed in a brown wooden frame, prominently placed on Brian McCarthy’s desk, facing visitors. On joining the company, I was introduced to him and he asked me to sit and tell him about myself. Showing interest in others was one of his strengths. I could not help reading his quote over and over, thinking that this is the McCarthy creed and that I better live by it if I was to succeed in his company.
I had joined McCarthy’s from a company that was noticeably different in culture. At my previous work place there was always some gossip doing the rounds, a lot of it quite toxic. Cliques had formed and there was a ‘ them against us ‘ scenario within departments and also inter-departmentally. Competition amongst departments was unhealthy and there was little co-operation between them. Political agenda’s were rife and some managers were in open conflict with one another.
McCarthy’s was a welcome change. It was completely devoid of office politics. Members of staff were focused on their work and were not embroiled in negative conversations. There was a strong work ethic and people respected each other.
Living in harmony with others was a value that Brian McCarthy strongly believed in and advocated. He practised it and encouraged others through his actions and his way of dealing with people to inter-act harmoniously.
I soon realised that there was no need to remember the words on his desk. It was just a matter of following the way he and his team went about dealing with all the various personalities amongst the many different company stakeholders.
Other than the common stakeholders most companies have, such as shareholders, staff, customers, suppliers and bankers, McCarthy at that time was the biggest Motor Group in Africa and relied heavily on good relationships with a number of Motor Franchises. We shared customers with these factories and were required to maintain stringent standards of operating efficiencies and performance.
Relationships with the Franchisors, or Factories as we called them, such as Mercedes and Toyota, as well as with our common customers, were key to our continued well-being and growth. There were many occasions when conflict arose due to the nature of our business, that skill was required to handle the situation in a calm and respectful manner. This was particularly difficult when it was felt by us that we were being treated unfairly. There were many occasions when a lip was bitten and a stoic approach followed. This did not mean backing down meekly. One had to stand one’s ground and be firm about convictions. How this was done is what is important and this is where I learnt many lessons about relationships and living harmoniously with others.
Living harmoniously with others means showing respect, courtesy, manners, friendliness, empathy and interest in others. It means listening without interruption and impatience and avoiding aggression. It means trying to see other points of view and looking to a Win, Win outcome to any negotiation. It does not mean meekness or weakness but rather firmness about convictions in a non-confrontational way and a caring attitude towards an ongoing relationship. It does not mean avoiding conflict but rather handling conflict in a calm manner to seek solutions.
There is no doubt that the foundations of the McCarthy culture were built on the solid ground of people relationships, firmly held in place by living harmoniously with others.
In an increasingly competitive world, and sometimes a cut -throat environment, living in harmony with others may be the one value that will set you apart from others.