I want to share an interesting conversation I had recently with a control freak.
Business Owners come to us for help to escape the day-to-day operation of their business, but the truth is that so many find it hard to let go of their role, even the small tasks.
Some believe that they are the only ones that can do a certain task to their exacting standards, and we come across this so often that a huge part of our work is changing the mindset of the business owner to let them know that they can trust their team with the right systems in place. They can take a step back to work on growing their business, while it runs smoothly without them, or with only a little input from them.
This particular ‘control freak’ (and I use that phrase because I can - I was one too!) was telling me how he hates to delegate - doesn't trust his employees to do anything without some sort of supervision, because they cock things up, make mistakes, take longer to do the job than he would.
"I check EVERYTHING' he said, 'I don't want my customers to have anything but a perfect service'.
It's the perfect excuse for the control freak - “I’m not doing it for me, I'm doing it for my customers.”
Drives me nuts.
Here's the thing, for those of you who recognise that you may be borderline, if not full-blown freaks, you’re keeping yourself stuck in that rut we talked about recently.
Just like the bindweed in your garden - you know the one with the pretty flower that pretends its trying to make your garden look lovely, while its tentacles set about destroying it? You too are strangling the growth of your people and your business.
You've forgotten that someone let you make mistakes when you were learning, someone gave you room to grow and develop, someone recognised that mistakes are how we all learn. You've forgotten that all of the successful people you look up to have built their success on a bucketload of failures, and much bigger failures and mistakes than any of your people might make if you gave them their head.
You want to limit mistakes? Have systems. Set standards. Give your people proper training in how to use your systems to achieve those standards. Manage their performance. Reward good performance and re-train when it's not so good.
People want to learn and develop, they want to grow - it's much more of a motivator than money. Give them ownership of their job, help them to feel like they belong to something, that you're relying on them to help you build something that you can all be proud of.
I saw this quote on Facebook, and it is oh so true - 'A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust one another.'
Trust your people and build a high performing team, that runs your high performing business.
Get control of your freak. Pull out the bindweed that's stifling your business.
Do one thing: Want to see where you’re at right now? Complete our Systems Scorecard to see where you’re at, right now, in your business.
It’s that time of year again, my car is due its MOT. I sit there waiting for the phone to ring. All those moving parts, they can’t all be in perfect working order, can they? So it’s always great when I get the ‘all clear’. Not that it’s always that straightforward, because you’re then faced with the dreaded traffic light system: green for fine, amber for ‘will need attention soon’ and red obviously, for a fail. I hate getting an amber on a tyre. Is it a green-amber, or an amber-red? What if something happens on the motorway and I haven’t changed it? So I invariably get a new one.
I can understand why MOTs are mandatory, the roads are bad enough without a load of faulty cars on them. It does make you think though, how many other areas of our lives would benefit from a top to toe, annual health check? It would certainly be great for a business, and for a business owner – but where do you go to find a leadership MOT, to have the traffic light system run over your behaviours, to tell you what you’re doing well, what needs attention and what has to stop!
Where do you start?
Well I start with an overview of how well the business is doing because all the leadership that you’re giving is ultimately to that end. Your business dashboard will keep you on track with the headline business figures your leadership is ultimately achieving. How your key performance indicators are doing, things like sales, turnover, profit, customers, speed of service, etc those things by which you’ll judge success.
Then there are other facts that can inform you, for example, how many people resigned, did you let go, failed probation this year? How many people have you promoted? How many are borderline needing help?
A bit of self analysis doesn’t hurt either – getting off the hamster wheel once a month or once a quarter, taking the time to re-visit your vision and values, using the traffic light system and a healthy dose of honesty, to assess how you’re measuring up.
But a great way of checking out your effectiveness but also finding out what people need/want from you as a leader is to ask them. A simple 360 degree feedback system can be really effective. I’m not talking about bells and whistles and expense but a simple question. When you conduct performance reviews ask: ’What’s the most important thing you want from me as a leader?’
Make a note of the answer and at the next review ask how you did. It can be that simple. If you are that busy business owner or manager how great would it be to know the main thing that each of your team want from you and how much easier to focus on delivering it.
You can step that up to a second question: ‘What can I do to make your job better/easier?’
Add caveats if needs be, so if a pay rise is not on the cards let them know so they don’t waste their question. Then follow up at their next performance review - ‘How did I do?’
And then if you’re brave and you can encourage a climate of trust introduce a third question: ‘What do I do that stops you doing a better job or perhaps from enjoying your job more?’
And then follow up again at their performance review.
I have found this so useful over the years and some great ideas have come from it. It’s often little things as well that can be put right but which make a big difference to the individual. You know how sometimes a small niggly thing gets in your head and you can’t think straight?
It’s also great if you have team members who aren’t as vocal in team meetings; by getting them to voice their opinions one to one it starts to build their confidence to speak up in groups.
And as a leader, the follow up at review time really concentrates your mind to make time to do what you said!
The upshot is that people feel they’re being proactively listened to and their ideas acted on which is great for two-way communication, your relationships, team morale and ultimately productivity.
You may want to ask your customers too, ‘What are we doing well?’ and ‘What could we do better?’
I know this works if you stick with it and build trust. It may take time for people to realise that you’re not just ticking a box but that you’re serious about learning and improving. You need to also rein in your reactions and not go on the defensive which I know can sometimes be easier said than done.
You above all need to take action and then follow up at review time just as you would with tasks you’ve set your team members.
In my experience it’s definitely worth it.
Another way to get a really good feel for what your team are thinking and feeling about working with you is to get someone independent in to talk to them confidentially & one to one. We have done this a number of times for clients, and it’s amazing the really honest feedback and ideas for improvement you get from team members who open up to an outsider in a way that they might not feel comfortable doing with you. You get a real feel for what’s having an impact on them personally, or on the performance of the team, whether it’s a small niggle or a massive block. We then feedback the key themes & ideas anonymously to you as the business owner and help you to develop a plan for action.
Do one thing: Give yourself a leadership MOT, and build what you find into your personal improvement plan. Find out more about what we do here
Thanks for reading.
In my business I often come across managers with one thing in common; they are flying by the seat of their pants! People who are ‘accidental managers’. You know, the great team member who is plucked from their team and given a management role or the talented business owner who finds themselves managing people as their business grows. They have little or no training or development and rely on what they’ve learned along the way from managers around them, good or bad. And if you need a great management role model, we can learn some really crucial lessons from Gareth, and his signature waistcoat.*
Lesson 1 - Nurture your Culture
Many clients say to me, ‘I really want to improve the culture of my business. I want to get it right.’ So what can we learn from Gareth? First of all, he had a really clear idea of what he wanted the culture of Team England to be. The thing with culture is that it starts with values; it starts with the values of the person at the top. Gareth clearly is a man who has strong opinions, strong values, a really clear idea of how he wants to operate. What I think he did brilliantly was choose people for his team who shared those values. I don't think it's any mistake that certain people were not brought into the England setup, people who maybe had massive egos, big superstar baggage or people for whom it was ‘all about them.’
Just look at the individuals within that team and how well he brought them together. Regardless of what team they came from, he managed to bring in those people who shared his values, who bought into the idea that ‘we are one team,' and he did a fantastic job of building that culture.
He talks about the England DNA. If you think about the last 20 plus years, the England DNA has been big egos; it's been superstars; its been cliques, it’s not been about pride in wearing the England shirt. Look how many people have pulled out of playing for England, have not seen it as a real privilege. They've seen it as a chore, and he, in a very short space of time, has been able to turn that around.
The fact that he'd raised a few of these guys from a very young age as manager of the England under-21s, proves there’s an awful lot to be said for growing your own talent - bring in the attitude and then develop the skill.
Obviously, with football you have to have natural talent, but attitude is so, so important. In a lot of situations it's not the superstars who win, it's the collective, it's the team. Look at Croatia - great example. Look at England - great example. We got all the way to the semi-finals, and Argentina with Lionel Messi went out. Portugal with Ronaldo went out. The collective, bringing together a great team, will always win, and Gareth Southgate as the manager was responsible for that.
So great first lesson, nurture the culture you want to build. Think about your values; it starts with values, then bringing in people who share those values.
Lesson 2 - Build Unity
Within the England setup, there was no us and them. There was no ‘the staff and the players’. That was really clear from what you saw on TV, how they were with the physios and the psychologist and with Gareth himself. Although a few of them did slip into calling him ‘Gaffer’ they mostly called him Gareth, which was just unheard of in the past. There was no us and them. Absolutely, they were one.
Gareth Southgate was great as a manager in sharing any praise. It was always, ‘We, the team,’ ‘We, the squad,’ ‘We, the entire group of staff and players.’ And taking responsibility for any blame, ‘Yeah, I'm responsible. I'm the manager.’ I absolutely loved that he was brilliant at sharing praise and shouldering blame.
He was also very good at supporting those who were having a hard time. Take Raheem Sterling, the England scapegoat; Gareth was great at protecting him and keeping his confidence high. Not just because he recognised that Raheem was so crucial to the team effort, but also just because this was in line with his values, that he would look after the team. He would keep that person feeling confident and part of the team.
So the second lesson is unity. Make your business one team.
Lesson three - Develop Relationships
As a manager, you need to build great relationships, and Gareth did just that with his competitors.
When you saw him going around at the end of each match they played, he seemed genuine in his congratulations to the other players, to the other staff, made a really big point of shaking hands with everybody. Perhaps that’s easy when you’ve won, but even in defeat, when it must have been absolutely killing him when they lost to Croatia, you saw him going around to every single member of their team and to the staff, hugging them, congratulating them.
Then going to his own team to just remind them how far they'd come and how well they’d done. Building relationships was really important, just as he did with the managers of the players he brought into the England squad. He didn't antagonise them in the old ‘club versus country’ way, but was just very firm, fair, and friendly with everybody that he had dealings with.
So the third lesson is about building relationships.
Lesson 4 - Inspire and Motivate
One of the common questions I get asked by people on our Management Development Programme is, ’What's the difference between a manager and leader?’
There'll be books written on how managers are the logistic experts, they just keep things ticking along. A big part of a management role is making sure that the attention to detail is there, that mistakes aren’t made and if they are, that they're learned from and so on.
But these days in any business, you have to be a leader as well. You have to inspire and motivate the team, and quiet as his media persona was, our Gareth was clearly a very inspiring and motivating guy. He didn't immediately crack the whip. When he first met with the squad, he took them into a room and shared his vision of what it was like to be an England player and how privileged they were to wear the three lions shirt.
That is something I find that a lot of managers and business owners miss. They miss sharing their vision. ‘Where is this all headed? Where are we all going together as a team and why?’ He inspired and motivated them so well.
He clearly showed them how much he believed in them, and as a result, they believed in themselves. Every interview there was no talk of, ‘Oh, well, crikey. If we get to the quarterfinals, we'll be lucky. We'll have overachieved.’ No. ‘We're going to win this. We're going to win this.’ That's what inspired the country. It's coming home. He got those players to believe that they could win it, that they really could win it.
He also treated them like adults. Sometimes, particularly new/young managers feel their role is to be the boss, to talk at people, to tell them what to do. When you have adults or adult conversations with people in your team, when you give them the training and development and support that they need, when you really believe in them and remember that you have a responsibility to help them to fulfil their potential, that's when you get your team to take ownership. That's when people start to step up and go, ‘All right. I'm responsible for this. This is my job.’ And you saw that right through the tournament with England. The team were taking ownership. The team were taking responsibility, and they were acting like adults.
Fourth lesson - look to inspire and motivate your team to build ownership and belief.
Lesson Five - Have fun!
It became obvious as the tournament progressed that the team were enjoying themselves. They had an enormous amount of fun, which was something, again, that Gareth Southgate encouraged. He wanted them to enjoy themselves.
We are lucky with what we do, a lot of us, and why not have fun doing it? Why not encourage our teams to have fun? People are at work for so many hours of the day, it's part of our responsibility as managers to help people enjoy it, not to dread coming into work and be managed by us.
Fifth lesson- create an enjoyable workplace. This goes back to culture and values as well.
Lesson 6 - Learn, learn, and then learn some more!
The final thing that I really wanted to bring up as a lesson from Gareth was his desire to learn, his desire to be the best possible manager he could be. Look how he went and studied other really successful people, both in sport and in industry. He really wanted to learn how the most successful teams operate, and he left no stone unturned. He will continue to learn. He'll have already learned lessons from this tournament. He'll already be preparing for the next because he wants to be the best he can be.
That's really what I want for each of you. I want you to be the best possible people managers that you can be. So think about the lessons from Gareth. Think about your values and your culture. Think about how you can create unity in your team. Think about the development and support that you're giving not to the team as a whole, not just to the stars, but to every single individual, however minor their role is in the team.
Think about the relationships you're building and how they will help you to be a better manager. Think about how much you're inspiring and motivating the team who work with you, and then think about how you're going to become a better manager, what you need to do, the skills you need to develop, where you can learn those lessons that you need to learn to keep improving, keep developing, and be the best manager that you can be.
*waistcoat optional ;)
Do two things: think about how you need to develop as a manager then think about the areas you need help.
We run a highly successful online Managers' Development Programme; the next is starting in August. To find out more, click here
‘I'm only two modules in, but I've already grown in confidence in leading my team and I'm no longer nervous around giving them constructive feedback. Thank you to Marianne for her wisdom and expertise!’ - Maddy Kelly, Boda Skins
‘Since starting this programme, my team’s productivity and progress is going up, consistently, month on month. And not just by a few percent! It’s significant. I’ve got my team into a really good position. Everybody knows what’s expected of them. Everyone is looking at their performance, and looking at their goals. I’ve shared my knowledge with other team leaders in the business, and they are starting to implement change in such a positive way throughout the whole company.
On a personal level, I’ve gained confidence, I’ve become more direct and clear with my expectations. I feel like a manager now, and I can also manage upwards to my boss effectively.’ - Ryn Moser - Chief Language Officer, Supertext
How do you split your time between your superstars, your under-performers and your steady, reliable team members?
I’ve spent some time this week working with a couple of my private clients, talking to their teams, individually, one-to-one to discover:
The first was a revisit, to check the progress that we’ve made and also address any new or remaining niggles. The other was a first visit – new client, new team, many of the same challenges.
What I learned from the new team will help me to help them over the next 12 months. It’s a great exercise for a business to do. The thing I love most about it is that you get to talk to both the old-timers, people who have been around a few years and also the newbies – team members who’ve been around less than 6 months.
Quite often, you’ll hear people say, ‘Oh, you won’t get anything useful from new people, they’ve not been here long enough to know how things work’. But that’s actually the point – you get their fresh view on what has become the wallpaper to everybody else. You know, when you walk into a new house sometimes and you’ve got a wall that you need to sort out because it looks hideous and then you find you’ve been living in the house two years and that wall still looks exactly as hideous but you’ve just stopped seeing it? New people spot things that the longer serving team members no longer see, or recognise as an issue.
Yes, you can learn a lot about a business from talking to those who work there. But how often do we do it.
I was talking to my sister about this very thing in advance of my client meetings, and she reminded me of the analogy of the choir, the crypt and the congregation.
The choir are the people in your team who are the real superstars, the people who you love having around you – your high flyers. The people that you give the big jobs to, to get them sorted.
The crypt are the people who are under-performing. They are sometimes the rotten apples in your barrel, the people who are either constantly moaning or constantly asking the same questions over and over again, or simply very high-maintenance.
Then in between sit the congregation very often forgotten because they are steady, they are reliable, they are consistent. They don’t ask for anything, they are possibly never going to be your high flyers or you may just not notice their potential. But they are absolutely solid as a rock, you know that they will come in, they will do a really good job and then they’ll go home. No trouble, just really consistent, steady stayers.
So, what percentage of your time do you spend on your superstars, your under-performers and your steady reliable team members?
Perhaps your choir, your superstars don’t need too much of your attention because by definition they are self-starting, high-achievers. Your time is spent with them on public praise and in high energy gatherings, on setting new challenges and keeping them stretched and fulfilled. After all, you want to keep them!
What about the crypt? People in here may just need to be trained and nurtured to progress to the congregation or even the choir. But how much time do you spend on someone who you know is just not the right fit but you dread having that conversation with and so put it off? What about the person who does an okay job but who is incredibly needy of reassurance, of constant affirmation who picks on any little thing, who just sucks the life out of you on a daily basis? How much time do you spend and how long do you persevere?
And then how much time does that leave to spend on people who simply do their very best every day, the congregation? They may not be superstars in the recognised sense of the word, they may never achieve greater wealth or status than they have already, but they go about their work cheerfully every day, and they do it consistently well. They are the sort of people who you would want beside you in the trenches (do people still say that these days?); the sort of people who are calm and measured in a crisis; who have had their share of hard knocks, but who just keep bouncing back; the sort of people you can rely on to be…well, reliable!
Someone who springs to mind was a carer for my dad.
Now I loved my dad to bits, and he was a positive, loveable man…but he was also 90, had run his own business since he was knee high to a grasshopper, and as a result of both combined, he could, at times, be a bit difficult. But this lovely lady had him wrapped around her little finger. I’ve watched and listened in awe on many an occasion, as she arrived at 8pm, as cheerful as the first visit she made at 8am, with tales of what she’d had to deal with in the pub (that she also managed) the night before! My life! It’s not like she was paid a fortune for what she did for my dad and others like him.
And he loved her… for her ‘not phased by anything’ attitude, for the fact that she didn’t need to be asked if she saw a job that needed doing, and the fact that she brightened up his sometimes boring days with her banter and cheeriness. I know she’s the sort of person who he would have loved to have working with him back in the day – great at keeping the customers happy, seeing and solving problems before they arose, a good hard reliable worker. I bet we would all welcome someone like this into our teams.
So how much attention do you give these people – the congregation? Do they get the public praise? Do you set them challenges? Do you encourage them to aspire to the choir? Or do you just let them carry on… being reliable?
Do one thing: organise some one-to-ones with your team.
Find out what one thing you could do to make their job easier, and help them to serve your customers better. Let them talk, and listen to them.
And if you feel that you wouldn’t get straight answers then bring in an outsider, bring in a friend, bring me in to talk to your team and get this information because what I’m picking up with my clients teams’ is absolute gold dust.
The sort of stuff that doesn’t readily come out; feedback about where people see themselves; feedback about who’s sitting next to who and how that’s affecting their work; feedback about how poor communication is.
Little stuff maybe, but it’s always the little stuff, isn’t it?
Have a great week.
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)