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HR Horrors: What To Do When Your Business Partner Isn’t Pulling Their Weight

Back when you first started your business, you probably imagined that your fellow director was going to be a trusted partner, an indispensable asset. The Ben to your Jerry. The Ant to your Dec. The Jay Z to your Beyoncé.

The honeymoon period rarely lasts long though. When you’re working together so closely, it’s inevitable that there are going to be times when you have differences in opinion. Sometimes, this can prove to be productive in terms of bringing an exciting dynamic to the working relationship and how you bounce around ideas. And sometimes – if you are like me – you thrive on a bit of er, vocal and healthy debate. But occasionally, a whole host of other problems can rear their heads.

You’re passionate, you’re motivated, and you want to take things up to the next level. So what are you supposed to do when your fellow director just isn’t pulling their weight?

If it were an employee, the process would be fairly clear-cut. You’ll hopefully have policies in place to tackle issues head on. And even if you didn’t, you’d probably feel comfortable spelling out to them that their performance was quite wide of the mark. But when the problem is your business partner, things become a lot more complicated. Particularly when they’re likely to be a good friend to boot (isn’t that why you started the business together in the first place?).

First of all, let’s not blow things out of proportion. It may all be down to a lack of communication, and it’s very possible that an open and honest chat could clear the air, give you both an opportunity to revisit your expectations, and then move forward with a mutual understanding of what needs to be done. Initiating the conversation can be tough, but you’re both professionals, and burying your head in the sand will help no one.

If this option has been exhausted, then there may be a need for more drastic measures. Ideally, you’ll have created a written agreement outlining provisions for if and when this type of circumstance arose via shareholders agreement. And buying out your partner could be a possibility.

As a last resort, dismissing a fellow director is an option, but you’ll need approval from more than 50% of any shareholders that you might have. Always refer to the legislation, and seek out professional guidance to prevent things from getting unnecessarily nasty.

Whichever option is best for you, the key is to take action quickly. Dragging things out could have a serious impact on the rest of your workforce, and even your own health and wellbeing.

If you’re having problems with a fellow director and you don’t know what to do for the best, get in touch for a confidential chat. We’ll help you to understand your options, and we may be able to guide you right through the process of deciding which route is best for you.

For more details on any other HR challenges you might have, drop us a line at or call 0203 627 7048.

For more reading on giving your own leadership style a bit of a kickstart , then download our new eBook: Leadership 101: The Ultimate Guide to Being an Inspirational Leader.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

Photocredit: Global Panorama

Leadership: It’s A Head AND A Heart Thing

“We have no need for leadership development”. So said the director in a business I met with recently. “We’ve been in this market for years. We’ve got ambitious goals which everyone in the business knows about and if someone doesn’t share them, then we tell it like it is and part ways”. I was impressed, to be honest with his frankness. There aren’t many people who would stand there and say, “I’ve got nothing to learn”. But maybe their style of high pressure high turnaround yielded results. And they definitely did know what they were doing from a technical standpoint as hundreds of happy customers could attest to this.

However their business had grown five fold in employee terms in under 2 years and – whilst not stratospheric growth – was certainly enough to change the dynamics of their business considerably: no more knowing every interaction the customer had with his team; no more knowing the ins and outs of every employee’s lives. And sadly it seemed, no more static employee numbers.

Because it turns out that whilst this culture of searing honesty sat well with the boss, starters and leavers were going through a revolving door (both leaving of their own free will as well as being ‘ nudged’) and for the last year they were haemorrhaging money through not being able to keep their staff at any level below their management team, not to mention the time it was taking to hire people and the frustrations felt by colleagues as yet another person left and they were there to take the extra work .

And things always started with the best of intentions: from day 1 all team members were given very clear goals which linked to the business ones. They had an ambitious team culture and a thriving service. So where were the issues? Well, here’s the thing: people management is where arts meets science: a place where you can use data and structure to support people achieving your goals, but where you cannot simply follow a template and expect to get the same out put every time or just to impart a goal to someone and expect them to follow it to the letter. Because people just don’t perform as algorithms and they don’t behave as you expect them to all of the time (ask any HR person who’s been behind the scenes in any business for longer than about two weeks!).

We humans are complex creatures and rarely will go about doing something we either don’t understand, don’t believe in or don’t respect. We may not even realise it ourselves, but we need to be ’sold’ to, for someone to engage us in their vision and linking our motivations to achieving the same shared goals.

So when you’re business relies on your team members to get stuff done – make sales, handle your customers – you need to do more to than just ‘direct’ and show them the outputs of a spreadsheet you have just pulled up of their performance: you need to show them ‘the love’.

Today, the world’s best leaders use their head and their hearts.

Emotional intelligence is the term most used to describe the ‘heart’ at work: using your combination of self-awareness, motivation, empathy, social skills and self-regulation to get results.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman studied leadership for the Harvard Review and states in his findings that “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence.” It’s not that he – or anyone else – is suggesting that you don’t need to have technical capabilities or a certain level of intelligence to be a leader. It’s just that they’re your entry level ticket to leadership rather than the full blown package.

Our heart is a poor statistician however and definitely needs some support

All of this chat about ‘soft’ skills is not to say that using data, logic and your technical skills in you leadership style are in any way redundant, as both sets of skills come into play best when used together.

If just having and sharing the data to show someone is not performing doesn’t motivate them into changing their behaviour, then neither does just being empathetic about their situation. You need both. Using data and logic can be your ally when it comes to difficult conversations. It’s the ‘proof’ you need to back up your message and make it objective. As a leader, it’s tough to say to someone you respect and like that their performance isn’t cutting it, however armed with some data, it makes your conversation a whole lot easier.

Using your heart means getting to know your team members and their motivations: it means changing your style of communication to suit them and listing to what they have to say about the way you run things.

So next time you are tempted to tear someone off a strip for something they haven’t done (or you think they haven’t done), just challenge yourself to behave differently and see what the results may be.

If you want some extra help on the people front, we can support you through your goals, and ensure that you reach your full potential.

Drop us a line at to find out more or sign up here for free tools and guidance.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs.

P.s – For more reading on giving your own leadership style a bit of a kickstart , then download our FREE eBook: Leadership 101: The Ultimate Guide to Being an Inspirational Leader.

Is Your Workplace Beach-Ready?

The days are getting longer and the temperature is finally on the rise. Chat in the office has turned to bikini diets and the countdown this entails…. The pavements are packed full with joggers and cyclists. There’s no denying that summer is very firmly on the horizon. But is your business ready?

As always, a little preparation can go a long way. Here, we talk through what you you need to be taking into account to ensure your business is fighting fit to contend with the challenges ahead:

Are You Keeping Spirits High?

The summer can be a bit of an unsettling time for employees. There are often many factors at play that can present unique issues: team members are taking time off, sunny beer gardens seem much more appealing than the office, sports days which are scheduled for right in the middle of the working day. The list goes on ….

So it’s easy to see why motivation and engagement can sometimes be sorely lacking over the warmer months. Instead of trying to firefight problems once they arise, be proactive and consider what you can do to raise spirits. Organise an outdoor picnic during the lunch hour, treat your staff to an ice cream, or organise to have the biggest sporting events streamed into the workplace. Small gestures can often go a long way.

How Will You Handle A Heat Wave?

Okay, so this might be wishful thinking. But every now and again, the weather throws a pleasant surprise our way. Do you know what’s expected of you when it comes to managing the working environment when the temperatures soar? At the other end of the scale, workplace temperatures shouldn’t drop below 16 degrees Celsius but interestingly, there’s no upper limit issued as a guideline, partly because some industries require warmer conditions just to get the job done.

So when there’s no legislation to refer to, use a bit of simple common sense. Is the office getting hot and stuffy? Is it uncomfortable for your staff? If so, think about making some adjustments. Fans can make a good quick fix, make sure fresh cold water is available for drinking & maybe dip into your pocket for some ice lollies to keep the spirits up.

Go Back To Basics With Your Staffing Requirements

More often than not, the summer months pose challenges in terms of making sure that you effectively manage the annual leave rota so work still gets done. The starting point here must involve working out what you need. How will you ensure the phones are answered, and queries are dealt with in a timely manner? How many team members need to be present at any given time? Make sure you’ve got it covered.

Don’t forget to think about how you can use this period to create opportunities. Members of staff who are eager to progress may be keen to step up and contribute to ongoing projects whilst their colleagues are away, or take on a more diverse range of responsibilities to assist with their professional development.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Sharing the employee holiday calendar with the team is one of the easiest and most effective ways to avoid holiday scheduling problems. It empowers team members to propose holiday dates that avoid clashes with their colleagues and gives those remaining at work the ability to plan projects/meetings accordingly. And if you’ve got a holiday policy setting out the rules for requesting time-off, now would be a good time to circulate it and avoid any last-minute dramas.

Perhaps you’ve got your plan of action mapped out, and you’re confident that you’re ready for the summer. Or maybe you’re feeling unorganised and worried about the issues you know you’ll have to handle in the very near future.

Need some help? That’s exactly why we’re here. Drop us a line at or call 0203 627 7048.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance

Photo Credit: Kemal Kestedi

“Just Stop Moaning And Get On With It”: Why You Can’t Afford To Be Saying That To Your Team

It’s 9am on a Monday. You’ve got a billion things to do when you get your first email starting with “Apologies if I’m speaking out of turn..” or the physical equivalent, “ Have you got a moment – there’s something I just wanted to make you aware of…”. Like many other mortal beings, your first response to negative noise like this is “Bog off”, or probably something a little stronger.

Negative Feedback Can Be Hard To Swallow When Your The One With Everything At Stake

We all know that feedback can be great: the secret sauce to raising your leadership game. We’ve read about self-awareness and how receiving feedback is a valuable part of raising it. But how come ‘feedback’ when directed at how your run the business largely feels like it’s said between gritted teeth and increasingly just sounds the moans of an employee (who you might add – isn’t exactly pulling their weight…. ). I mean, don’t they know that you’ve already had 3 customer complaints this morning and your inbox of tasks is filling up quicker than you can keep up with?!

The temptation therefore to bat away anything perceived as a complaint with a few choice words or icy stare is strong in most of us. Even stronger in those who are leading (and likely funding) a business. You’d be forgiven for feeling that way occasionally – you’re only human.

But Respect Their Candour And Listen – The Implications Are Wider Than You Think

Before you dismiss any constructive criticism out of hand or do nothing but make a cursory acknowledgement of it, take a deep breath and listen to what they are saying without jumping in. In being considerate and empathetic to your team, you are showing much more positive behaviour to those around you, something which Martyn Newman (2008) found as behaviour more likely to be demonstrating transformational leadership than the ‘average-Joe(Anne)’. And who wants to be average?

And Remember There’s Never A Right Time For Feedback You Don’t Want To Hear

True – there are completely wrong times – client meetings and investor presentations spring to mind here. Not everyone has your gift of self-awareness and tact. But if you can’t address the ‘noise’ right there, then acknowledge that they’ve shared their concerns and explain that you will have to review their comments at a time when you aren’t firefighting. Then tell them when that will be so it’s not left hanging.

Ultimately in lending them an ear rather than giving them your elbow, you’ll be doing yourself a favour by showing interest and consideration to your team, something which will reap the rewards for you in terms of engagement felt by them.

For more details on ‘noise’ outsourcing or any other HR challenges you might have, drop us a line at or call 0203 627 7048.

For more reading on giving your own leadership style a bit of a kickstart , then download our new eBook: Leadership 101: The Ultimate Guide to Being an Inspirational Leader.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance

Photo Credit: The Gabec

HR Hacks: Tasks To Tick Off Your To-Do List This Week

Managing your team isn’t always about big projects and rolling out transformational change. If you want to get the best out of your greatest asset, then you need to make sure that you’re doing the necessary work on a very regular basis. And that means little and often.

Taking a little time each month to keep on top of things can end up saving you a whole load of hassle in the longer term. So what should you be doing in May to keep your business on the right track? Read on for pointers…

Get the summer holidays sorted

No really. Ad not just yours (although don’t neglect that either – you’re no use to the team if you’re stressed out and tired). At this time of year, everyone is starting to think about jetting off to sunnier climes. If you don’t get yourself prepared, then you may find yourself in a bit of a pickle. You need to allocate leave fairly, and ensure that everyone knows about the arrangements. Now’s a good time to refer to any existing policies that you might have, and update them if necessary.

Consider your cold, hard figures

When some leaders think about HR, they think about fluff without any real substance. But we’re now long gone from the days of it being known as the department of “tea and tampax” (genuinely how the function was described to me when I first joined….) and HR has evolved into something the smart money knows isn’t just a ‘nice to have’. In fact, it’s completely non-negotiable if you’re serious about sustainable growth. So with this in mind, and considering the fact that we’ve just come to the end of another financial year, it’s time to look at your numbers. How much are you spending on staffing? And more importantly what activities are bringing the greatest return on investment? Only once you know where you are, can you create a map to where you want to be.

Book yourself in for an HR health-check

The vast majority of business owners do everything they can to comply with relevant employment legislation and create practices and policies that make their workplace a happy environment. Let’s be honest though – we all have constraints on our time, and it’s not always possible to go the extra mile. If you know that you’ve been putting HR on the backburner, then there’s no time like the present to review how you’re really performing, and what you could do to improve your business.

If you’d like a little ad-hoc assistance without committing to a tying contract, then you’re in luck. Our HR health-check service is just the ticket if you feel like it could be time to step back and take stock, before creating your plans for the future.

Drop us a line at or give us a call today on 0203 627 7048 to book yourself in or find out more.

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Sign up today.

Photo credit: Mufida Kassalis