How do you feel about your management team? Do they provide you with the support that you need for your business to be a success? Or do members of your team and their intra-team dynamics contribute to your stress rather than help you sleep easier and get more done?
When you consider the models and composition of management teams, there is no perfect formula for the structure, size, and combinations of talent. There are, however, three key themes that have helped small to medium-sized business founders, owners, and leaders to build and rebuild strong management teams that help achieve business successes. These key themes are:
- Balancing size and functional alignment
- Examining your strengths and the strengths of your existing team
- Seeking diversity of experiences and views
- Balancing Size and Functional Alignment
You might have a few key questions: How should I define my management team? How many team members would be too many? How many would be too few?
While the answer is for you to decide, I can give you some parameters based on my experience guiding and advising small and medium-sized businesses. At the scale of most small- and medium-sized businesses, it should be more than two people and likely less than ten individuals, which is still a small enough group to allow for productive conversations and representation from all parts of your business.
Why? Many of us have forged business ventures with other partners. Each of us likely can testify that the easiest way to make sure you avoid making the necessary changes and adjustments to your business is to have the decision rest in the hands of two individuals.
Does that mean that three is the right number when it comes to management teams? Perhaps it is—in some instances, with the smallest businesses. But three is definitely a minimum for a management team. Three, after all, has the “magical” quality of generally not allowing for “tied” votes on the critical and strategic decisions that will help position your business for success.
While it may or may not be three, the best number for you really depends on the scale of your business and your functional management alignment. The most important premise for the management team size is to make sure the size of your management team facilitates having good dialogues and making sound decisions. If you have a management team that is too large, it will often mean that much-needed debates on strategy or operations do not occur—or worse, that decisions are not made. When your management team feels like they are enduring a series of lectures, rather than participating in round-table discussions, they may feel disenfranchised and start looking for the exits. You and your business will suffer as a result.
Examining Your Strengths and Those of Your Existing Team
You need to make sure that all of your core business functions are represented on the management team. It is important to ensure there is a clear process for the flow of information, concerns, and recommendations from every part of the business to the management team.
Also, you need to be careful not to overload your hardest-working team members with too many responsibilities and too many voices to represent. In small- to medium-sized businesses, these are the teammates that we load up with responsibilities and reporting functions. When you do this, they ultimately will get burned out, whether mentally or physically, undermining the well-being of your team members and your business.
Seeking Diversity of Experience and Views
Your management team needs are often driven by a need for additional expertise and perspectives to complement your own capabilities and biases and those of your business partners. When you are looking at aligning management team responsibilities and recruiting new talent to fill those roles (and maybe unburden some of our team members who have too many areas of responsibility), you must avoid the tendency to be attracted to people who look like you, think like you, and sound like you. Multiple psychological studies have indicated that humans tend to be drawn toward the familiar, especially when seeking out other people.
We have all seen the trends that happen. Great sales-oriented CEOs often select other “revenuers” (as you may have heard them called). As a result, they end up with a culture that is built on growth but not in balance with compliance, which can produce significant legal and regulatory consequences. Or compliance-oriented CEOs who over-invest in operations and administrative functions but cannot make a decision that supports sales growth and increases in profitability. What you really need is balance in terms of experiences and views.
When you stay in a bubble, surrounding yourself with like-minded people, you keep your world very small and the ideas that enter your world very limited. It is important to be open to discourse and work with people with whom you have nothing in common. These new perspectives could be the difference between staying on a course that is destined to fail or finding a new path that could result in success.
As you evaluate your existing team’s capabilities, you can build strength by engaging new perspectives and mindsets when you are building and rebuilding your management team. For me, this not only means considering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), but also remembering that the two areas in which I tend to need help are sales and detailed operational management practices. I am not a natural salesperson. I tend to gravitate to ideas rather than tracking, so I need support on the detailed work that it takes to execute the plans. That is why I look for DE&I opportunities that support the personal sales and operational management weaknesses I need to offset. Similarly, a little analysis of your strengths and those of your team will lead you to the diversity of experiences and views that are right for you and your business.
Patrick Esposito, author of THE STRUCTURE OF SUCCESS, is CEO of Initiative Labs and President of ACME General Corp. He also serves as counsel with Spilman Thomas & Battle law firm. Esposito has helped found, lead, and advise businesses in technology, consulting, and other sectors. He was co-founder of Augusta Systems, Inc., which was acquired by Intergraph Corporation and was co-founder of Resilient Technologies LLC, which was acquired by Polaris Inc. His latest venture, Initiative Labs, helps leaders apply the approaches and tools in his new book. You can learn more at www.patrickesposito.com.