4 Valuable Lessons I Learnt from Being a Small Business Manager

If there is one thing in business you can never predict, its managing people. In one way, the versatility of individuals is a beautiful thing, but at times, it can pose one of the most challenging experiences you can ever have! The minefield of management has been a journey I have been navigating for several years now, and in most cases, I’m a greenhorn. But this doesn’t take away from the monumental experiences I have learnt from. So, for many of you, this may seem like basic advice, but I know that if I had received, understood, and applied this advice from the start of my journey, it would have saved me a great deal of unlearning behaviours and expectations.

Here it is then, in no apparent order, these are the 4 most valuable lessons I have learnt from leading people in a small business!

1. Develop People Beyond Yourself

This is by far the lesson that I learnt that I am now most passionate about. My focus as a manager, is to lead people into a place that they otherwise would not have been able to go. I want to develop a team that has capabilities beyond what I am capable of. I don’t want to be a manager that is the best at what we do!! What use is that?! No. I want to have people around me, that are far better than I am at their individual role, a team that as a collective is stronger because of what each one of us does that is unique to the group. Therefore, I focus on investing in people to grow outside of what I can even help them to do. I don’t feel insecure about it, I don’t worry about them showing me up, I celebrate them, and their success, and the importance of what they bring to the team. Changing my focus from delegating jobs, to allowing people to flourish beyond my control has seen great improvements in my team, and I would nearly guarantee you the same.

2. Take Risk

As a small business, it can sometimes be hard to take risk, and feel like you’ve made an appropriate choice (until it pays off obviously). Most the time, managing people contains a great amount of risk. For me, this manifested itself most in letting go, and trusting others. For me this felt like a huge risk, not because I didn’t think they could complete the task, but because I felt like I at least had some control over it if I did it myself. An even bigger step for me was having the realisation that I couldn’t manage several components in the team alone any more, and having to fully pass entire projects over to others. Again, not because of my belief in their ability, but because of my unwillingness to take risk. The thinking that risk is minimised because you are in control is one of the first steps to quenching a team’s growth, success, and innovation. Whatever way this applies to you, let go a bit, you can’t grow your team and increase success alone. At some point, you will need to step out and take a risk, especially when it comes down to allowing other people the opportunity to shine at something, or innovate in a way that would never have been possible before.

3. Continuously Grow

Nothing is more important than the realisation that developing, and fine tuning your management and leadership skills will be an everlasting process! No one has finished this race yet, so don’t sit in your laurels thinking you have!! There are two ways I make sure that I am constantly focusing on continuous development and more importantly, self-aware of my own strengths and weaknesses.

Read – I am always reading, be it a leadership book or a blog. I make sure that I have a constant feed of material that I can use to focus on my own development, and critique and apply these to my own experiences. There are numerous blogs out there with amazing content about leadership and management, just google it, subscribe to their emails, and start learning! It’s simple. If you struggle to learn in this way, then get your hands on some audio books, they cost the same as normal books now, and with apps like Audible, it’s even easier to stay up to date on the go. No excuse’s!

Mentorship – Seek mentorship from people who have been doing what you are for years! It may not be someone from the same organisation, or even industry, but when it comes to management, having a mentor that you can bounce ideas, frustrations, and question off is a fantastic way to learn. Don’t forget, there are men and women out there that have made tons of mistakes and learnt from them, wouldn’t you love to gain some of that wisdom before you make the same mistakes?

There are many other ways to develop skills. I am lucky enough to be part of an organisation that puts its management team through continuous management and leadership training, but there are still tons of opportunities to learn and develop, just make the time, find the best way that works for you, and pursue it! It will pay off dividends!!

4. Become and Encourager

Don’t get so caught up with work, stress, tasks, and meetings that you fail to notice and recognise your team’s success’s. I regularly try to take out some time, even if it’s just a quick text some evening, to say thank you to individuals in my team. You may not need encouragement, but your team at least want to know they are heading in the right direction and that the work they are doing is important. Notice the trivial things, acknowledge them, simple! It doesn’t need to be complicated, extravagant, or even anything more than a simple thank you. A healthy and happy team is more than likely a successful one. A great example of this is an initiative a member of my team headed up. He felt he wanted to purposefully take the time to encourage and inspire the team, so he asked could we take 10 minutes at the end of every lunch a share an inspiring video to encourage the rest of the team. We now have a rota that we share around, and each day, at the end of lunch, one member of the team will come prepared with a video that inspired them that week, and shares it with the rest of the team. Simple, yet effective! Find something that works well for your team, and stick at it. At very least, don’t forget to notice and recognise the successes of you team, they are the most valuable resource you have!!

You may be new to management, our managed large teams for many years, but there is always room for improvement! I make a point of focusing on one aspect at a time, nurture it, and create new habits. I have found that the most challenging part of all this is establishing the habit and making whatever aspect it is you are working on, your new norm.