My Story

Early in my career when I was a newly appointed manager I was all hands-on and absolutely no strategic oversight of what I was trying to achieve. I’d come up from the shop-floor and made it big-time (or so I thought at the time).

The company I worked for had gone through several iterations and quite honestly was neck deep in the mire with no obvious prospect of a life-line in sight. Until that is a young(ish) VC came to see if he could turn the business around. He had 12 months to make it work and looking back now I can see he brought the philosophies of a start-up. He encouraged everyone to go beyond their job titles and reach for success in whatever form it took.

Over the year the new CEO/MD let people go and appointed new people, I was one of the lucky ones, I not only kept my job but I progressed into firstly quality management then took charge of health and safety and eventually absorbed environmental management as well. I was flying and enjoying the challenges presented that came thick and fast. I essentially took the view I ran a company with-in a company, I provided professional support and services to a manufacturing/processing company. In effect I had my own start-up and boy was I proud of what I’d built. But I was working insane hours to keep everything running smoothly and was never going to keep it up for any long length of time.

I ran the company quality, safety, environmental and HR management systems. I offered support in contract negotiations, I was the technical author, I could stand-in for the Accountant during holiday periods and was a Production Manager stand-in as well from time to time.

I knew the name every employee, some quite challenging we had over 25 different nationalities represented in a workforce of circa 100. I was in the mix, totally enmeshed in the day-to-day running of the business .

I needed to change the way I did things to grow into a (better) leader

I could easily have stayed as I was, I knew everyone, I was in the mix totally enmeshed in the business. Or to put it another way after several years of working IN what I had built I realised that for true improvement in the services I and my team were providing I had to learn to work ON the business I’d built.

It was time to learn to Scale what I had built!

I started to work with the managers across functional boundaries with a focus on growing the people who were growing the business. That meant I had to use my energy to gather and generate data for decision making purposes. I made my team understand that environments where people do best are typified by transparency and trust, where people are assigned specific responsibilities and held accountable for results. In other words I became a coach to my team and the wider group of business managers.

The managers became in effect the instruments by which the business was driven. I had to learn to trust my team and managers to navigate the businesses we were in and find success.

3 Rules for Building Trust

  1. Be crystal clear on roles and responsibilities; Small companies and organisations and Start-ups are awash with people who are going beyond the job role and being enmeshed, its really easy for you to redirect on the fly. But as you grow and managing on the fly becomes increasingly impractical you have to build teams and managers who you can trust to navigate the business. You do this by ensuring each team member and manager has a clear role defined and fully understands their responsibilities. That they are capable of achieving the tasks assigned is your role.
  2. Empower your employees; You are going to have to have faith that all the work you’ve put in to your team is worthwhile and you have to let them loose to do the job you’ve been coaching them to do. The most powerful way of doing this is to give them your backing to make decisions and act on their findings – this is the essence of empowerment. You will be showing your trust in those you’ve given the authority to act by running the hands-on business without your direct input. By doing so you release the potential of discretionary effort and you just cant get that kind of effort if you only ever practice a transactional management style.
  3. Create a Culture of Accountability; Its true that its sometimes uncomfortable to tackle an employee who doesn’t follow through on commitments. But the truth is that if you pull the punch and choose not to call-out under-performance you re letting the team down, yourself down and not helping the employee to grow. Its plain irresponsible to let under-performance pass unchallenged for all concerned. If you do let it pass you are in effect creating an environment where the high-performers are carrying everyone else, and that leads to burn-out and resentment in the team.

I’ll close by posing you a question;

ARE YOU THE KIND OF LEADER WHO BUILDS TRUST, ALLOWING YOUR TEAM TO FLY SOLO, OR DO YOU FEEL YOU MUST ALWAYS BE IN TOTAL CONTROL?

Do you need help moving from Start-up to Scale then;

PHILIP DAWSON MBA | STRATEGY CONSULTANT | TRAINER | SYSTEMS THINKER

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