One person cannot be the sole catalyst for change. Great ideas and making decisions can come from anywhere. You have to trust your team.

These thoughts on leading change from Richard Gerver, formerly a star head teacher and now a travelling speaker, form a cornerstone of Change, his exciting new book published by Penguin.

Gerver is a maverick and most independent retailers will warm to him immediately from the pacey prologue. Change is a short book. It is beautifully presented and filled with ideas that will encourage you to live your dreams and to connect to other people.

Change-richard-gerver“We have all got to stop assuming we live in unique little silos that nobody else could possibly understand,” says Gerver.

He recommends that you take time out from your shop to explore the world and learn half-a-day at a time from other people’s experiences. His book is not about self-help nor is it a management book. What Change does do is give readers ideas on how their ideas about developing their businesses (and lives) are worthwhile.

As a head master of a small school, Gerver had to manage everything himself. People used to bring him problems and feel they had done their job leaving him to solve them. What he found was that his real role was to refuse to be responsible for everything. The more risk he took in empowering the people who worked for him, the better results they achieved together.

His book is packed full of interesting stories followed by questions and suggestions about what readers might want to do next. At one level, readers can substitute shop staff for teachers and customers for schoolchildren. This works powerfully.

“Kids, like customers, are not stupid. You ignore them at your peril,” says Gerver. “They don’t like being passed off with something that you, yourself don’t particularly care about.”

Childs play

Teachers used to do things because they were told by people at the top that they were safe things to do. The children saw through this and did not respond. What we had to do was change the focus and say we’re not here for the government but for the children, says Gerver. So we built the school for the children, to make it as exciting as Disneyland, so they were queuing up every morning to come to school.

Similarly with your customers: Gerver encourages you to trust your instincts and to do what you think is right. While he respects rules, he also believes in adapting them if they don’t work.

Change is “not a how-to manual that says if you do this, this will happen. What I want is to actuate open-ended questions and to sit back and watch the power that leads to dramatic transformation”, he says.

Gerver’s book is about an outlook on life that will suit the sensibilities of many independent business people. He observes that “knowledge that is not passed through the heart is dangerous.” If you like this idea, you will like his book. Reading it will challenge and encourage you to be a lot braver about making your own decisions, about delegating and about listening to your customers.