Woman’s Way Magazine
If you’ve recently been promoted to a managerial post, you might be feeling either smug that you’ve made it to the top in these fraught times, or guilty that you’re enjoying success when so many others are struggling to cope in one of the toughest economies Ireland has ever endured.
But according to Dublin-based business consultant Paul Davis, women – more so than men – should be feeling quietly confident about their career prospects at the moment. Paul, who has turned every loss making business he has worked with into a profitable organisation, points out that in the US, there is “a big movement towards a more feminine influence in business”. American female bosses are, he suggests, thriving at the moment, and the same will apply in Ireland over the next few years. So why the shift in fortune between the sexes?
“Well it’s a subtle shift, I should stress,” says Paul, “but to put it in basic terms, the male mentality tends to focus on profit at all costs, and we’ve seen enough evidence over the past two years to show that this isn’t always wise in the long term.”
“Women, on the other hand, are more likely to have a social conscience – they’re more likely to ask: ‘How is what we’re doing affecting our clients, how is it affecting the community, the environment?’ and so on.”
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
One of the biggest barriers to success following promotion is a lack of self-belief, which your staff will sense in your body language and tone of voice. Envisage yourself as capable and remind yourself that you earned your place – you can think yourself into a more confident persona, says Paul. Just be careful that in the process, you don’t lose your own personality, which presumably played a part in your promotion.
“Some women feel like they have to work differently, assume the alpha male traits, become harder around the edges. But that’s not what’s needed right now. Females bring a lot of invaluable traits to management, such as intuition, sensitivity, the ability to multi-task – they can be more perceptive than men at identifying employees who need more guidance and support. If you can play to these strengths, you should do well.”
So you should adopt a management style that suits you, but also one that suits your organisation – employee relations might be more formal in, for example, a school, but in a hair salon you could risk alienating your employees by acting like an authoritarian figure. Sick leave, high staff turnover and poor performance are all indicators that your management style isn’t working.
Don’t be afraid to ask for sufficient training before you take up your post – training can give you the confidence you need to coach, inspire, motivate, reprimand and reward staff. This is important because what is needed now more than ever in Irish business is for managers to show true leadership, says Paul.
“What’s called for now is for management to rise above what’s going on in the economy, taking responsibility, taking control and making things happen. “It’s about really motivating the staff and getting them involved in marching forward. This is easier for an outside person to instigate into a business than it is for the business owner because it’s very difficult for the owner to go out one door and come back in as a different persona, but the fact is right now this is exactly what is needed in every business.”
Showing leadership, he explains, is about putting together a goal of what the business wants to achieve – even if it’s just for the next three months – and mapping out a plan for achieving that goal.
“The biggest thing that staff want now is to be shown the way, but they also want to get involved in what is going on and to help in whatever way they can. At the end of the day, most people believe their job could be at stake at any moment, so if they can get involved it means they have more control over their destiny. From the owner’s point of view, it results in sharing the load.”
When you empower staff to push ahead with a job, you’re showing you trust them and generally they’ll repay this with hard work and a positive attitude. They’re more likely to use their initiative and don’t feel they have to report to you about every single detail. Although you need to be available for mentoring, you should listen and encourage rather than dictate.
“When you give your employees a sense of ownership in what they’re doing, they feel they can suggest ideas for change,” says Paul. “They’re willing to solve problems by themselves or to propose solutions without depending on you for constant guidance.”
What a lot of business owners fall down on, says Paul, is feedback.
“If you are concerned about the honesty of your employees’ answers in team meetings then it might be worth considering introducing an anonymous staff survey. From the manager’s point of view, it means more listening and less talking. Ongoing coaching and feedback is critical to developing staff.”
Exit interviews are also a good way to establish why people are so keen to leave. Did that person think they were experiencing excessive levels of pressure, for instance?
DEALING WITH CRISES
There are many ways to react to a management crisis, but the best involves a balance of responsibility between management and staff. “Some bosses become more insular and try to sort the problems out themselves, without asking for help. This leads to a disconnection. Other managers look outwards, ranting and raving, calling meetings, having discussions, blaming others. What is needed is a balance, a cohesive and inclusive approach where clear decisions are made.”
Good management means getting people on your side, knowing where the company is going and getting your employees on the one path to the same destination.
“When I go into a company the first thing I ask is where does the management want to go with their business?”
“Then I want to know what their core values are. If these values are shared throughout the organisation, it’s a great start. If not, you need to work on getting your team to think alike, because cohesion among staff is half the battle.”
Employee goal and reward schemes are a great way of incentivising your staff – without sufficient challenges, staff can become bored.
“Don’t forget to offer praise, as well as criticism. There are a lot of changes going on in the workplace at the moment, so many employees will need increased support to deal with the uncertainty and, perhaps, new ways of working. Remember what it was like to be the junior person and how good it felt at that stage when you were given a little bit of praise? Keep that in mind, get that person on your side, as well as the rest of the team, and you’re on to a winner.” WW, by Laura McDaid
Paul Davis FCMA CMC
Davis Business Consultants
Business Growth Specialist