06/03/2015

By Phil Jones, Managing Director at Brother UK


One of the often unexpected consequences of successfully growing your business from single founder to employer is the requirement to motivate, lead and organise people. I once heard this saying “managing people is more complicated than rocket science” and there’s some truth in that.

Meeting lots of entrepreneurs, start-ups and scale-ups, the most common response to the question, “what’s the number one problem on your desk?” is people issues!

It can be difficult, yet there are some principles you can adopt to minimise any disruption in your transition from founder to leader. Managing a large community at Brother UK, there are plenty of lessons that can be applied to smaller businesses.

Your recruitment process is key.

Never compromise when recruiting, it can cost you dearly in the mid-term. People often tend to recruit in their own eye, over-relying on feel, rather than the specific attributes required to complete the job. Before employing people, be crystal clear about what you want their characteristics, competencies and cultural fit to be, and hold out for that person. Beware – recruiting to your bias can often lead to failure in performance.

Generate as much clarity as possible about expectations.

People problems often occur because instructions are fuzzy, success is not well defined and the end state is not made clear. This can relate to tasks or role function. After advising many entrepreneurs on problems that have occurred, I’ve learnt that invariably it’s because of a lack of clear job description, a missing review process or a lack of feedback when behaviour or performance is poor. Additionally, leaving a people issue in the hope it will improve, is likely to amplify rather than dissolve a situation. Tackle under-performance quickly, be honest, provide evidence and be consistent.

Get used to delegating.

Yes, it’s your baby. Your passion. Your money. We all get that. Yet, one of the biggest blockers to many start-ups growing is the founder themselves getting in the way. Over managing, making every decision, controlling everything. As you take people on, if you want to keep them, you’re going to need to start delegating. It feels like a bungee jump at first, everything is telling you not to do it, yet when you leap you soon realise that you’re not falling to your death, but to a new found rush and a fresh view of the world. Want to be a leader? Start delegating.

Remember that everyone is different.

Introverts act differently to extroverts. Introverts prefer not to do the after-hours team night out preferring to re-energise in their own company at home. Extroverts love the energy of a bar or busy place. Your culture will be made up of different types of people and thinkers. Have a consideration for these different styles and how you can accommodate your thinking and reward structures within your new culture. The big team night out will work for some, but a private pat on the back may be all that’s needed for others.

Determine your Leadership style.

What sort of leader do you want to be? What are your values? What are your principles? Get those things down, they must be the things that matter to you, not a carbon copy of someone else. Then get on and live those, be consistent, the best version of you. When a person is clear about who they are, it’s far easier to lead a team. People you are managing will understand what to expect from you and can perform to your standards, as well as upward manage accordingly.