Staff at a world-leading Chesterfield manufacturer of thermal products were all-ears when their boss challenged them to start listening.
Chloe Watmore is managing director of award-winning thermal manufacturer Thermotex, whose products do everything from stop oil and gas plants freezing in Russia’s frozen north and keep liquid chocolate warm in the pipes of top British confectioners.
It exports its winterisation, solar, sound and chemical protection products across Western Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Canada and Azerbaijan.
Chloe took the helm of her parents’ 23-year old firm in 2013 at the age of 22, brought in new tech and staff and steered it to double its turnover in four years.
But she wasn’t challenging staff to pay more attention to her.
The 25-year-old economics graduate wanted them to absorb words of wisdom and insight from leading entrepreneurs and business gurus like Richard Branson and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.
She urged her staff to listen to 12 audio books in 12 weeks, hoping they would learn one valuable lesson from each.
Five workers took up the 12 by 12 by 12 gauntlet at the Broom Business Park firm.
They made time in their daily lives to listen to books on personal development and business knowhow, and Chloe paid for all 60 audio books.
“It’s been a really rewarding exercise for all,” said Chloe, who believes the key to the company’s continuing success is staff development.
She decided on the challenge after a business mentor introduced her to audio educational books.
“I now listen to them while driving or out running,” she said.
“They help me grow, personally and professionally.
“I learn from other business people who have done great things, and they also give me head space.
“I hoped audio books would do the same for my team.
“It’s really important as a boss not only to help staff develop skills and awareness as employees, but also to help them grow as people.”
Since the challenge began in January she has noticed staff thinking more broadly and applying what they have learned to workplace situations.
They have bonded over the experience too,” she added.
“They helped each other persevere when sticking to their reading lists got tough, and there has been lively debate about the books they have listened to.
Ideas from one book, The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack, brought about the company’s new Team Bonus Programme.
“We decided performance-led bonus schemes divided people. Now we all work together and either all get a bonus, or no one gets a bonus. It’s about the survival of the team, not the fittest,” explained Chloe.
Rebecca Stacey, Thermotex design manager, revealed how she bought into the challenge.
She said:”I listened as I walked my dog every day. A month in, I was ahead by two books.
“But then, during a really busy week, I hit the ‘reading’ wall.
“I found it hard to get back into the swing but the fact that it was a group challenge made me persevere.
“My favourite book was The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters.
“I can now see the importance of recognising and improving on the areas you struggle in.
“I’ve already put some of my learnings into practice and believe I have grown as a manager.
“I’m looking at different situations through different lenses and tackle the grit in a different way.”
Gretchen Wright, who is an order facilitator with Thermotex, explained how the challenged had now made her ‘look at things differently’..
She said: “Starting the challenge was daunting as I don’t enjoy reading and didn’t think I would find the time.
“But I enjoyed my first book, The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael E Gerber. It taught me I shouldn’t be scared to push myself and learn, even if it feels challenging.
“I started to love audio books. Listening became part of my everyday routine and has made me look at things differently.
“I listened during lunch breaks, in the evening while I cooked and later, in bed for an hour. My favourite books were The 10X Rule, The Chimp Paradox, The One Thing and Best Business Decision.”
Senior and middle management at Thermotex will start their 12 by 12 by 12 challenge next month.
Chloe Watmore’s top recommended reads:
- Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO
- The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team, by Patrick Lencioni
- Finding My Virginity, by Richard Branson