I have the great privilege of seeing many mangers at work (and some at play). In many cases our interaction with management is during a process by which we are checking their company out as a potential investment. This naturally means that they are in "sell" mode.
As a potential investor I have to try and find ways of getting behind this and discover what the manager is like in "real life" situations.
I have learnt that sometimes the really small things are the ones to watch for. How a CEO asks for a cup of tea from a secretary or colleague. How other employees talk to him during a tour of the office, or just as he is walking down the corridor. How management refers to one and other in meetings, and indeed what view they take of the contribution made by others in the organisation.
Why do I apply importance to these matters?
For me one of the most difficult intangibles when looking at a potential investment is the leadership skills or style of the management of the company. This typically starts at the top and is usually reflected all the way through the organisation.
In order for a small company to grow there needs to be strong leadership from the front. This leadership needs to encompass all of the employees and in many cases partners and shareholders of the company too.
Managers can and must be pro-active in this area, and this style must be prevalent at all levels of the company:
- Lines of communication must be open and transparent: Employees, Management, Investors, Board, Partners etc
- No idea is a stupid idea
- Make sure that you interact with as many employees as possible on a regular basis
- Don't just talk about immediate goals
- Use the time to understand what employees and partners would do if they were CEO for the day
- Lead by example
- Be accessible
- Earn the respect of the company, don't demand it!
- Recognise the strengths and weaknesses of those around you
These are just a few ideas about how to lead the company that you are trying to grow, in adverse markets you need better than average performance from the entire company in order to continue to grow. It is your job as a manager to achieve this, and it can only be done if you succeed in inspiring rather than demanding.
Management who either have this or learn it will be the ones to come out of the downturn, not just in survival mode, but also stronger.