What happens when millennials run their own businesses? In the case of Reel Gardening – weekly yoga sessions and a workplace where babies and pets are a common occurrence.
Reel Gardening was founded by Claire Reid seven years ago. The company manufactures innovative biodegradable seed strips which makes gardening accessible to everyone.
At 30 Reid is part of an estimated 10 million strong group of South Africans aged between 18 and 33 and often referred to as “millennials.” She also leads a team that falls within this group, with the average age being 27.
While the generation is characterised as being tech savvy, mission-orientated with an emphasis on collaboration and cooperation, and perhaps most importantly, a strong need for work-life balance. It’s also not uncommon to hear millennials described as internet-obsessed, self-centred, and lazy.
What is little talked about is how this group, which is a growing population in the workplace, is redefining leadership and influencing how business is done.
Changing the definition of leadership
Claire Reid with her son at the Reel
To understand Reid’s leadership style you would have to understand how millennials view leadership and work.
A Deloitte survey, ‘Mind the gaps The 2015 Deloitte Millennial survey‘ reveals that this generation has different ideas about leadership.
According to the research millennials want leaders focused on “soft” concerns such as well-being and employee development.
Respondents, who were all born after 1983 in 29 countries including South Africa, regarded “true leaders” as those who are able to inspire, and are equipped with “vision, decisiveness and passion”. Only one in 10 felt that true leaders are solely focused on financial results.
Also of importance to this generation is “job creation,” “profit generation,” and “improving society,” as well as an expectation that a business should be good for individuals by offering employment, and to have a positive impact on the wider society.
We speak to Reid about running a purpose-driven business and how being a millennial has impacted her leadership style.
Q: How would you describe Reel Gardening’s work culture and what are you trying to achieve with it?
We have a relaxed but purpose-driven culture in the office. I encourage everyone to be able to seek out the tasks they prefer doing in the office and to master them.
We work well as a team and we all share the same passion for the incredible work and impact we are able to enable.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
I have always been a leader who recognises the unique skill and passion that each person brings to the team and I work to enable them to give of themselves to the best of their ability and to grow within the team as a leader themselves.
I do not believe in pushing or pulling people, I believe in holding their hand and walking on the journey with them until they are ready to let go and take someone else’s hand to guide them thus becoming a leader themselves.
Q: Aside from the yoga, what other initiatives do you have within your company to encourage balance and employee wellness?
I bring my son and my two dogs to the office every day and it has been so lovely to see my staff wanting to take some time out during the day to play with my son or dogs and just unwind a bit. We also grow our own food all around the office and everyone helps out and enjoys the harvest.
The Reel Gardening team in a yoga class.
Q: How do you think being a millennial has influenced your leadership style and how do you think it differs from the traditional way of leading.
I feel that as a millennial I am focused on and understanding of the power of collaboration and sharing and this enriches my leadership style.
Q: What do you believe are the biggest misconceptions about being a young/millennial boss – from the outside of course.
The biggest misconception is that we are lazy and don’t work long enough hours and spend far too much time on our phones and on the internet. We as millennials understand the critical need for a healthy work/life balance. We are tech savvy and work smarter, and we can work from anywhere!
Q: As a millennial boss, you are also leading other millennials which research has shown are driven by a larger purpose apart from just a pay cheque. Can you give us insight into how this impacts how you lead, and what is your company’s core purpose that your employees are buying into?
Reel Gardening, is considered a social enterprise. We are driven by purpose and we look to make profit from purpose driven sustainable impact.
We understand the need to value People, Planet and Profit all as equals in our business model. In leading a social enterprise, I attract passionate social leaders to work for me and they are driven by our mission. I therefore need to make sure that my team is able to consistently see the impact their work is having.
Q: Have you noticed any changes in your employees?
My employees are happy, [they] enjoy coming to work and treat the office as an extension of their home which is lovely to witness.
Q: Do you think these have had a direct impact on your bottom line?
Yes – happy employees are productive employees!