How to Be an Effective SME Leader

The majority of businesses in the UK are SMEs. SMEs are crucial to the economy because they provide jobs and they drive innovation, but according to research, one thing in particular is holding them back- poor management. 

Problems in SME leadership

According to a study carried out by Warwick Business School, under-developed leadership and management skills coupled with a failure to adopt best practice is negatively affecting the performance and growth of many SMEs.

Businesses which are led by leaders with strong leadership skills are more profitable and more productive, thanks to good strategic management and people management practices.

One of the best ways you can be an effective SME leader is to ensure that you develop your leadership skills and continue to do so. The good news is that even if you feel like you’re out of your depth with some aspects of management, and with being an entrepreneur in general, there are a lot of valuable training, education, and consultancy resources out there that can help you, and your business grow.

 Being an effective SME Leader: What you need to know

As well as developing your management and leadership skills, there are other things to consider if you want to increase your effectiveness as a leader of an SME.

The kind of leadership your business needs can change as the business changes

When a business starts up, much can be achieved by a leader’s drive and inspiration alone, but as the business grows, there needs to be more of a focus on strategy. You might find that you feel like a true entrepreneur at the beginning, then you move on to a stage where you plan for the longer term and put down solid foundations, before moving back to feeling entrepreneurial when you want to introduce new products or services, or take the business in a new direction.

As your business grows, you’ll come up against new challenges

As your business expands, you’ll find that you have to deal with leadership and people management issues you’ve not faced before. To overcome these, think about what you need to learn or what help you might need to recognise and solve problems. Do you know another leader or business that has faced similar challenges? How did they deal with them? Do you need external help? Asking these questions will give you some perspective on how to deal with the issues in your business.

Nobody expects you to have all the answers and do everything

In the beginning when you’re getting your business off the ground, it makes sense that you’ll be involved in every decision, and taking a lead role in most tasks, but as the business grows, you should think about developing and empowering others to take over key roles and tasks within the business. Your business will only grow if everyone’s skill set is being used in a way that truly meets the needs the longer-term needs of the business (including yours).

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

How to Deal with Workplace Bullying

Bullying in the workplace has an insidious effect not only on the target of the bullying, but also on the organisation. Bullying creates an unhappy and toxic working environment where morale and productivity are low, and sickness absence rates are high, and this can only affect a company’s bottom line.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying comes in many different forms, whether it’s perpetrated by, or aimed at, a manager, supervisor, a co-worker, or anyone else in an organisation. Examples of workplace bullying include:

  • Insulting someone or intentionally embarrassing them
  • Spreading rumours
  • Excluding or ignoring people
  • Personal or professional criticism that is not warranted
  • Deliberately giving someone an unmanageable workload
  • Making someone do demeaning or pointless tasks
  • Threatening someone
  • Making unwanted sexual advances or sexual harassment
  • Deliberately passing someone over for a promotion or stopping them from developing in their role

It should be noted too that bullying doesn’t necessarily need to be face to face. If the insulting or threatening behaviour happens over email, phone, or text message, it’s still bullying.

The effects of bullying

Victims of bullying can experience stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and physical health problems which can all result in time off work. At work, they can find it hard to concentrate and be productive, and they may dread going into work at all.

When is a workplace bully not a bully?

The answer is never. Whether a workplace bully tries to pass bullying off as a misunderstanding, or they are allowed to act however they want because of their position within an organisation, it’s not acceptable.

The role of managers

Managers have an important role to play in tackling bullying in the workplace. They can:

  • Produce and enforce a comprehensive bullying and harassment policy
  • Make sure that any allegations of bullying and harassment are taken seriously and dealt with sensitively
  • Ensure that all employees are clear on the grievance procedure and what they can expect once an incident has been reported

Are you being bullied?

If you are the victim of workplace bullying, here’s what you can do:

Firstly, stay calm

This is easier said than done, but the best way to deal with bullying is to remain calm and professional, and to go through the proper channels to find a resolution.

Speak to the other person

Talk to the person who is bullying you and let them know how much their behaviour is affecting you. If you aren’t comfortable doing this alone, ask a trusted colleague to go with you. Some issues can be resolved informally.

Speak to your manager or HR

If you don’t feel like you can confront someone, talk to your manager, or if it’s your manager who is bullying you, speak to someone from HR. Explain how the bullying is affecting you and get advice and guidance on next steps.

Take things further if necessary

If you have gone through the appropriate channels and you don’t feel like you’re being taken seriously, start looking elsewhere for help and advice. ACAS and the Citizens Advice Bureau are a good place to start.

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk