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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Just who is in control of your firm?
Emu and the late Rod Hull
Is one of your directors not taking his job seriously enough?

Company directors come in all shapes and sizes, but what can you do if one of your bosses isn't pulling his or her weight?

Professor Nigel Nicholson of London Business School looks at the problem of managers without apparent management skill, and the resulting lack of control.

QUESTION
Sharon Bennett, England

I work for a small home improvements company. It has two directors, one of whom is very keen to build a reputable company and is prepared to work hard, the other who lacks any kind of managerial skill.

There seems to be nobody in overall control and therefore staff set their own working times, mistakes occur because no one is checking on the work being carried out and generally there is a lack of motivation.

How can we move forward, especially bearing in mind that neither director will take advice?

ANSWER
Professor Nigel Nicholson, London Business School

Small businesses are fragile to deficiencies and variability in lots of areas, not least leadership.

The flair that got them going can become an increasing risk when commitments grow to create a greater need for management control.

As a result staff can get very little information, including as to the nature of their own role.

Given that you are aware of the difficulties, my question is what capacity do you have to initiate problem-solving dialogues among the parties to help them move forward and avoid things falling apart completely?

My suggestion would be that you, or someone else, does this in relation to a specific risk or problem - e.g. an error, delay, or missed opportunity - but explicitly not in the spirit of who's to blame or how can we fix it.

Rather, discuss how your system is not working and what you can do to be more confident you will avoid a recurrence, with the directors fully engaged in the process.

This needs to be coupled with a positive discussion of what is the source of your company's competitive advantage and how you we enhance that. What are the sources of customer delight you are uniquely able to generate as a small business?

There should be no limit to the agenda in terms of options and changes - so that the directors can rethink their roles if that seems to make sense.

Ideally, an outsider should act as facilitator for such discussion, and you might want to ask the directors if they have such a person they trust.

Sometimes good people are available through local agencies, such as via your local Business Link.


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