The workday world of a billionaire entrepreneur may seem far removed from what most of us chalk up during our daily routines. But relatability matters and there’s a lot to learn from Richard Branson. Few billionaire bosses match Branson for down-to-earth advice on work-life balance and offering an example of how to be a great company leader.
As founder of Virgin Group, which operates more than 400 companies, Branson has been at the forefront of the work flexibility movement for years. He’s also used his success as head of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Records to help fuel his philanthropic efforts, from donating to African educational charities to pledging $3 billion toward reducing global warming.
Branson mused about his successes and failures in a speech cited by Fortune magazine, where he addressed the Tribeca Film Festival’s Imagination Day and touched on the reasons that are the basis of his organization’s decision to let employees work from home and initiate an unlimited leave policy at Virgin Group.
If you’re a company leader, here are five things to learn from Richard Branson:
1. Set an example by working from home when you can.
Working from home has been a cornerstone of his career, Branson said. Of course, Branson has multiple homes—which actually makes a great point about a digital nomad lifestyle that may be achievable no matter your income level. “The kids have literally grown up crawling at my feet,” Branson told the audience.
2. Cultivate work-life balance.
For many workers, including Branson, a big piece of the work-life balance puzzle is being able to work from home. As a working dad, the article notes, Branson wants his employees to have the same kind of parenting experience he enjoyed. Make healthier work-life integration integral to your company culture, especially when seeking to broadcast what your company’s all about to future employees.
3. Favor home-grown talent.
Other company leaders might disagree, but Branson said he is a confirmed fan of hiring from within when possible. “We don’t go outside,” he told the Tribeca audience, continuing: “Selecting from a company’s existing talent pool means that some boxes remain unchecked, but it also means you’re never exposed to a candidate with glaring, unforeseen weaknesses.” Branson added: “The whole company will be pleased that you employ from within; they all have the chance to one day get the top job.”
4. See the world.
More now than ever, travel can offer a way to break free from a rote way of thinking, day in and day out, and let you approach your organization’s priorities with a fresh, creative perspective. As Branson puts it, “See what’s happening in France, see what’s happening in England, see what’s happening in China.” Doing so, he said, may help you make good use of all the other “great ideas out there.”
5. Write things down.
A key part of active listening is really absorbing what the other person is trying to say. As a company leader, taking notes during conversations with your team members is a good way to not only record what’s said, but to circle back afterward and truly remember, and act on, the conversation. Here’s Branson’s quote from the Fortune article: “If you don’t write things down, how are you going to remember half the things the person told you?”