Dee McManus is an experienced business trainer, with more than 25 years’ experience in providing workforce development advice to SMEs across a wide variety of sectors and industries.

From directors and senior managers to front-line, customer-facing staff, there’s few topics Dee’s yet to tackle. If you’ve got a burning question that you want Dee to answer, don’t hesitate to drop us a line or get in touch via LinkedIn or Twitter.

In this month’s column, Dee looks at tackling issues around company culture, HR and recruitment.

Dealing with a Domineering Director

I work as a senior manager in a relatively small, owner-managed business. Despite several entreaties, our boss keeps bypassing management hierarchy and directly approaching our teams with tasks and issues that they’re not well-suited to deal with - how can I handle this?

Obviously, it’s your boss’s business and they’re entitled to run it however they see fit, but if it’s causing strife it needs to be addressed. It can be harder to control if your boss is going straight to your team and not really thinking about the dynamics. You’redealing with a domineering director operationally closer to your team and will have organised the workflow based on the strengths and responsibilities of your team members.

It’s often hard for directors to take a look in the mirror and change their behaviour, especially if they’re successful and technically competent. But, if you can’t change the person - you need to explore how to manage them better.

The best approach may be to back your assertions up with business cases. If you can state the impact on the bottom line, you’ll probably get their ear a little bit. Put yourself in your boss’s shoes - and think about what it is you do (or don’t do) that makes them react in this way.

Often, people with a dominant personality can become frustrated if you’re a bit too passive or giving incomplete information. This can lead to them lashing out with their authority, so it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re communicating or challenging ideas and backing yourself up with facts, since rational people will usually hear you out.

By going into the situation on the correct footing, you’ll have a much better chance of influencing both the tone of the discussion and the outcome. Sometimes your boss’s reaction may be a little over the top, but as a manager, you’ve signed up to being a buffer.

Oranges are not the only fruit

My company’s growing steadily, but I feel like the team we’ve got in place doesn’t gel with the brand and image we’re trying to represent. With new hires on the horizon, how can I ensure I’m building a team that better-aligns with my goals?

Your first step should be to explore how you ended up in this position in the first place. What selection process have you used to date and have you been as thorough as possible in weeding out unsuitable candidates?

You reap what you sow and it’s not just about the technical skills. If you’re aiming to present a consistent brand, that needs to be reflected in every aspect of your business and that obviously includes the management

If you want apples and you’ve got oranges (and maybe even the odd chicken tikka as well), no matter what you do with that orange - it’s never going to look or taste like an apple, so you need to be as robust as possible in the selection process. 

Obviously, you’ve got a day job to do, but by front-loading your time and effort in recruitment, you can avoid a range of problems further down the line. Think about the kind of questions that you’re asking and the expectations you’re setting. Not just in terms of legal requirements, but what you’re actually recruiting for. 

If you want an apple, you have to make sure to ask questions where you’ll make sure you get an apple - not an orange. Have your rationale and have your evidence to hand. You might have seen a lot of fruit and your colleagues may not necessarily agree on whether they were the right fit - so you’ll need to reach a consensus. 

Having this criteria will also cover your back in case someone pursues legal action after not being selected. No win no fee lawyers won’t go near a business if they’ve got clear procedures and rationale in place. 

HR Headaches 

At what point should my small business think about taking on a dedicated HR function? 

This is a crucial decision and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Obviously a range of factors will come into play, especially costs. 

As a stop-gap measure, many small businesses rely on outsourcing - but while HR consultancies are great at coming up with policies and procedures, it’s you as a manager or owner who has to ensure they’re understood and followed on a day-to-day basis. 

Just because you’ve got policies written by a HR expert doesn’t mean you’re safe. They can’t help you if something’s gone wrong. All managers should have some fundamental training or coaching to understand what the procedures are and how they should be carried out. 

It’s stuff like understanding where to access information on HR procedures, how to handle disciplinary escalation and generally being HR practicesproactive in terms of doing your due diligence. 

Incorporating good HR practices is your responsibility and as a small business, you may only need to take expert advice when things are being updated and formalised. You should be setting the scene as a way of working and as a culture.

Staff should know exactly what to expect in any given situation and be entitled to consistent treatment. This isn’t just good HR practice, it’ll also be invaluable if a current or former staff member tries to make a legal claim on the grounds of mistreatment. 

Your turn 

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues discussed in this month’s column - we want to hear from you. So if you want to share your thoughts or would like Dee to answer one of your burning questions - don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter, LinkedIn or email. 

And if you’re looking for business training on virtually any issue, but aren’t sure where to start - book an obligation-free consultation with our expert team today: 

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