At Haines Watts, we’re proud of the fact that we’re not old-school accountants. We work with our clients across every part of their business and, ultimately, help them develop as leaders.
But this idea of what makes a ‘good’ leader is a really interesting question. This week, for instance, I’ve been working with two very different owner-managers and it’s highlighted that it’s not as clear cut as you may think.
For clarity, let’s talk about Director type 1 and Director type 2.
D1 is the archetypal single-minded entrepreneur, who has built the business from the ground up. They’re formidable and like to be in control of every detail. They’re someone who finds it difficult to delegate and often micro-manage.
D2, on the other hand, is the aspiring leader who is able to trust the people they’ve surrounded themselves with to perform important tasks, with the business at the heart of their decision-making processes.
Time to step in?
What makes events this week so interesting is that someone I see as being a ‘D2’ had to step in to manage their team more closely – ‘micro-manage’ if you will. And it was the right thing to do.
But why? We spend a lot of time telling our clients about the importance of building strong teams and then trusting them to get on and innovate, learn and prosper.
But what happens when you invest in your people, provide the training and guidance, only to find they continue to take the path of least resistance and refuse to act in the interests of customers and the business?
Shutdown by fear
I see this often being a symptom that fear of failure has crept into the workplace. It’s particularly prevalent in more traditional sectors, particularly where employees have been in their role for a number of years.
Over time, the introduction of new working practices or shifting customer expectations can leave them feeling left behind. Every action threatens to expose them as being ‘less than professional’, so they work defensively, always choosing the safe option.
So, my client and I have developed a framework where their under-performing team is now closely managed and supported to make that transition to new working practices.
The aim is to help them regain the confidence to think independently, challenge others, be proactive and, ultimately, put the interests of their employer at the heart of their decision-making.
Forming closer business bonds
And the results have been extraordinary. Within days, we’ve seen old behaviours changing and signs that the team is becoming more cohesive.
But what is equally important is that it’s a short-term process.
The end goal is still to develop a strong team of proactive and independent-thinkers. It’s just that some people need to be provided with alternative routes to the same destination.
How do you help your underperforming employees to improve?