Change is a key component of business ownership. Business owners who successfully manage change in their business and their own approach tend to build a strong, vibrant company culture that attracts talent.
Changing management styles and approaches is challenging for every manager, but the results can be very rewarding. Here is some advice from other business owners and experts:
Business owners need to understand their own style, then decide whether it is appropriate and if they are willing to adapt and change it.
’The first place to start is to get a reasonable insight into their own style and preferences, their own strengths and also their own blind spots,” says consultant Joel Barolsky.
The simplest way to do this is seek feedback from employees, colleagues and peers. During performance reviews, managers can ask what would make them more effective.
Psychological profiling tools
Many companies put candidates through tests to see how they will measure up. Jannine Fraser, managing director of outplacement firm Directioneering Victoria, uses one such tool, the Birkman Method, for everyone at Directioneering.
The Birkman method is a 298-point personality assessment tool that looks at such areas as how people deal with relationships and tasks, what their needs are, how they cope with stress and how they approach problem solving.
'It helps me understand how people are going to operate and it gives people enough wiggle room so that they can self manage and not get overloaded.'
The beauty of the tool, she says, is that it helps show how people are different and how to manage those differences. Used across different departments, it also promotes collaborative management and working.
Introducing shared values can be a confronting but rewarding change in management technique.
Managers at IT recruitment specialist Peoplebank brought in a facilitator to run sessions to explore the personal values of staff. Then they workshopped the values of the company, and as a result developed policies that aligned the company’s values with the people’s values.
It's a change that ensures everyone works to the same agenda and system.
Change meeting style
Meetings need to be constructive, rather than repetitive rituals, according to management consultant Kevin Dwyer from Change Factory.
'If the meeting is regarded to be useful but it's lost a lot of its constructive zing then change the environment,' Dwyer says.
'You can hold it off-site. If it used to be an hour-long meeting every week then make it a two-hour meeting once a month. Or you can change who leads it.'
Another way to improve meeting productivity is to hold debriefing sessions to openly discuss what is or isn’t working.
When small business owners expand and take on employees, it can be difficult for them to change their approach to generating business ideas.
It is important to encourage employees to provide insight and contribute new ideas. Shannon Cooper and Steve Sanmartino, who own ebay rental company Rentoid, set aside time during meetings to allow staff to brainstorm ideas.
'We talk about how we could do things better, what we could improve on and what new things people are seeing. All ideas are welcome.'
Change staff communication
Good staff communication is essential for business success and to put it bluntly, employees who don't know what's expected of them will not perform well.
Managers who want to connect better with staff might need to change communication channels, and find the communication channel that works.
They need to examine the tools and methods and see whether they are appropriate or whether they can be improved. Some companies rely heavily on Intranet systems, others have a CEO or company blog. Some use staff forums where the manager regularly meets with staff to talk about issues. Not all of them work, and managers need to identify what suits their staff.
Change office layout
Changing the office design makes a more creative, switched-on workplace, says consultant Barolsky.
Implementing larger areas where employees can meet and talk, or hot-desking, can help facilitate a more cooperative working environment. However, this doesn't suit everyone, and staff should always be consulted.
The principle is that office layout and how it works can have an important impact the business culture, and how people feel and interact.
For tools, templates and tips to help you change your management style visit our employing and managing section.