Olivia Stefanino asked:
Stuart had built up his electrical contracting company over five years – and was disappointed to find that the staff he had recruited did not seem to share his enthusiasm for the job.
I asked Stuart to describe his company structure – and it became clear that right from the early days, he had been planning for the future. Casting his mind back to when he had started his new venture, Stuart told me that he had dreams of creating a successful business which would bring employment to local people. Stuart knew that if he were to achieve his ambitions, he needed to design a proper structure for his fledgling company.
As well as creating appropriate systems and procedures, Stuart had worked out how to ensure that everything from sales & marketing through to finance & purchasing was covered. Having taken a “big company” approach to his small business, Stuart had believed – somewhat optimistically – that actually running his company would be plain sailing.
However, to his horror, profits were down for the second year running and Stuart was beginning to believe that he had been mistaken with his “grandiose” ideas and structural plans. “Perhaps I have just been thinking too big,” he said, “maybe I just need to scale down the operation.”
I assured Stuart that his approach had been correct – and that many business failures can be attributed to the lack of proper planning together with poor systems and procedures.
“In order for a business to succeed, the right structure needs to be in place from the beginning. So, I think we need to look elsewhere to discover the root cause of your problem,” I said, asking him to tell me next about his team.
“Well,” he replied, “I pay them over the odds but it looks to me as though they take no ownership of anything. In fact, they act as though they are just doing a ‘job’ – and I’m disappointed as I expected so much more from them. “
Stuart had hoped that a fresh pair of eyes would provide the answer – and together we decided to conduct a 360o assessment of the company’s management team. As I sat down with Stuart’s staff, I kept hearing the same story: “Stuart doesn’t trust us to do our jobs properly.” Most of his staff felt that Stuart interfered with their work – and “micromanaged” their activities. By the end of my last one-to-one session, I had concluded that Stuart simply didn’t want to let go of his “baby”.
In our follow up meeting, I discussed my findings with Stuart, who smiled sheepishly and admitted that he had always liked to be in “control”. I suggested to Stuart that if he wanted to see different results, then he needed to start to do things differently.
“You know that you took on good people in the first place, so how about focussing everyone on the company goal of making more money – and then letting them get on with their jobs!”
Initially, Stuart looked sceptical but his face began to relax as I continued, “Discuss with each individual their personal targets and action plans – and make sure that the latter are all specific, measurable and timed. You might also want to get together with your staff monthly – almost like a business coach – to discuss their progress and successes. Of course, you will also be able to see if there are any problems looming on the horizon. By allowing people the space and freedom to do their jobs, you will increase – exponentially – their motivation and job satisfaction.”
Stuart nodded and he saw the sense in my suggestions. I continued, “Your job is to create the vision, strategy and structure for the company’s long term success or in other words you are here to work ‘on’ the business, while your staff are in place to work ‘in’ the business. “Just remember,” I concluded, “that you are not here to do everyone’s jobs in the company – leave that to the experts you employ!”