The very title of ‘business owner’ often marks the accomplishment of a lifelong dream: overcoming the odds, growing a successful business and controlling your own destiny.
But in almost every business I’ve worked with, sustainable growth could not have been achieved without a trusted, highly skilled team alongside.
However, I often find that the biggest hurdle for business owners is stepping back and allowing the management team to take a leading role in growing the business. So, how can you loosen the reins to allow for your management team to take on more responsibility? What impact can a unified management team have on your business and how can you be sure the right team is in place to rise to the challenge?
No one person has a 360 degree skillset. Too often I see business owners trying to spin all the plates themselves, or simply taking on responsibilities that they don’t have the skills or the time to make the best of, when there’s someone else who can.
Every member of the team is a piece of the puzzle. As a leader, it’s your job to knit that team together so that when you step back, a full picture emerges. But in order for this to happen everyone needs to play their part, a gap will break cohesion – and ultimately leave a missing piece in the puzzle. Small gaps in the team’s knowledge and expertise, left unattended for too long, will cause long term business challenges.
It all comes down to unifying your vision and goals with those of your management team, and ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Our research shows that a discouraging 1 in 5 senior managers (17%) are actively aware that they have a divergent vision to that of the business owner. This results in individual team members pulling in different directions, so even if they are trying their best to succeed, their efforts might be counterproductive.
Where business owners often struggle the most is when trying to align the management team’s aspirations with the overarching business goals. Succeeding here will create a culture of trust and collaboration, but failure will have the opposite effect.
Balance isn’t only good for the balance sheet
Unfortunately, many of the business owners I have worked with are not willing to expose their own weak spots, for fear of losing respect or support. Our latest research lines up with my experience, with over half (52%) of business owners stating that they believe it is important not to show any vulnerability to their management team. Only 9% say they seek support from their business partner for the pressures (including the psychological strains) of running a business.
But maybe it’s time we viewed vulnerability in a different light. Being honest about the challenges you face can allow the team to remember that you are human and facilitate a sense of partnership as opposed to hierarchy. Showing you are happy to embrace wisdom from others can open the door to productive conversations that take the business forward.
Owners’ desire to uphold the pretense that they can do it all is something that directly stands in the way of senior team coordination. What that means in reality is that it may be stagnating their growth.
A True A-Team
Deciding if the right management team is in place is no easy task, and one that is often overlooked. It has just as much to do with the business owner themselves as it does with the team they have appointed.
The realisation that your management team is successfully performing a role that you thought only you were capable of may be a tough pill to swallow, but it is one of the tell-tale signs that you have the right team in place. On the other hand, when the team is failing to deliver tasks that you routinely handle, the problem may not lie with them, but rather the length of the leash you allow them.
Another sign that the management team is on the right track is when you are challenged by your team, rather than always being the one doing the challenging. Trusting your team implicitly allows more time for thinking and planning strategically, while still being able to walk into meetings confident that the team has everything in hand.
In order for this to work the management team has to know that it’s okay for them to step out, innovate and push the business into unchartered territory or feel confident that an idea will be explored by the team in a collaborative manner and in the best interests of the business. To cultivate this environment it is important that everyone, including the owner, is open to coaching and change. When all parties are confident that there is a safe platform among their peer group to be honest about skill sets, throw out innovative new ideas and balance challenging each other with supporting one another in equal measure, a true A-Team materialises.
Unfortunately, our research shows that currently only a third (33%) of business owners feel they have the support of a full formal management team representing the key functions of their business. Further, nearly 1 in 5 (18%) say they have a management team on paper but do not feel supported by them.
The cost of having the wrong people at management level can show itself in myriad ways. Missed opportunities, lagging innovation, poor employee engagement, inefficiencies leading to wasted time – all of these negatively impact the bottom line. Ultimately, the right team will create and drive the initiatives around engagement, having a direct collaborative effect on the profitability of the business.