20 July 2014

What’s the secret of a great management team; the magic ingredient that makes a team come together seamlessly and achieve more than you ever expected? I often talk about stepping back, but as a CEO, I have to know that the right people are in place and chomping at the bit to take the business further, faster and better.

So how do you identify a great team? Well, I think the biggest observation is that everything is about the people you work with. When you find a department that’s growing fast and producing impressive results, it’s always because of the people. The same goes for a department that is stalling or stagnating. That’s why we invest so much in training and education, and into creating an inspiring environment for people to work in. It’s about preparing people and giving them the best possible chance of success. Of course, we make mistakes now and then, but if we stopped doing that then you could probably argue that we’d stopped growing and learning, and that’s something I avoid at all costs.

The calm before the storm in the boardroom!

The calm before the storm in the boardroom!

However, it’s not just about bringing together a great team, as I would say it’s more important to hold on to real talent. The impact of losing a really good team mate has negative consequences for the dynamic of a department and I’m not sure you can truly recover from that. It’s certainly a lot more difficult to find and train someone to replace that person. So when you find great managers, it’s crucial to give them that freedom to make decisions and put something in place to let them know when they’re doing well. It’s also important to stress that stepping back isn’t necessarily about turning your back. As a leader, when things aren’t going as well, you have to get involved and find out why. Occasionally, I do meddle in certain departments, but not by telling people what to do, but by having a big, open discussion and asking questions like, “What would you do to fix this?” Nine times out of ten, people will know exactly what needs to be done in order to fix something once you’ve had a conversation about it. Your job as a leader is to empower them – to let them know that they are in charge of their specific area of the business. I think it was Bill Gates who said: “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others” – and whilst I agree, I think this quality has always been the stuff of great leaders and managers. Why is it that when you focus on helping others, you often end up achieving something yourself in the process?

Sometimes it takes a boost of confidence to get people to seize the opportunity and, if the fire has gone out in their belly, a one-on-one to find out why. Bear in mind that often, when people’s performance seems to be slipping, it’s because they are experiencing problems or worries outside of work. This is just one of the reasons why criticism and shouting is ineffective and a close knit family culture works so well. It’s also why we choose managers with a stronger than average caring gene. So, whilst there’s no exact formula to the perfect management team, I think a lot of it comes down to focussing on each person within that team as an individual. What are their best qualities? What are they good at? What motivates them and how do they communicate that motivation to others?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you do to keep your team happy? Or, if you’ve ever worked with a failing manager; what mistakes do you think they made?


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