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SME Leadership: Have You Got What It Takes?

What actually is a leader? If you asked 10 people for a definition you would probably get 11 answers. One of my colleagues once commented that (in relation to a leader we both knew) “he may not always be right, but he was always certain!”. And it made me wonder how leaders could be so sure of their ground.

For business owners, the first step in creating your new business is a leap of faith and hopefully a solid vision. This automatically qualifies you as a leader. But things get a bit tricky as you start building relationships and partnerships with others. It can be your own people or it can be suppliers or trusted associates that help at critical times – the point is, you need every person acting like a leader in their own area of specialism. And they also need to be thinking like a teammate even if the “team” is not strictly delineated. Since the start of this century, the trend towards partnerships has paved the way for a more collaborative style of leadership, but it can be a hard style to master:

It All Starts With Crafting A Great Team

Margaret Mead, American social anthropologist (1901-1978) was famous for saying “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

But how many people would it take? With only one person, it’s hard. But when you put that one person with four or five more, you have a force to contend with. All of a sudden, you have enough momentum to make almost anything that is imminent, actually real.

The hit 90s children’s TV series Power Rangers was based on a band of teenagers who possessed individual  super powers and came together to defeat any villain. A compelling case for encouraging diverse skills and talent if ever there was one. And it’s the same for you: orchestrating the make-up of your ‘dream team’ is the smart way to excel.  

Collaborative Leadership Starts With You!

Being a collaborative leader means juggling the balance between respecting and valuing the differences of a partner or colleague, whilst smoothing out some of those differences in the interests of making the relationship work.

The leadership principles listed below will help you achieve this balance consistently. Modelling self-leadership is the most powerful way to embed a technique and it is further reinforced when you mentor or coach others.

These are the habits of self-leadership:

  • Practice, don’t preach.
  • Observe and listen.
  • Stay connected to your intention for change.
  • Stay with the conflict – don’t avoid it. Resolve it…help creative options open up.
  • Follow your heart-do what you love, love what you do.
  • Keep connected to THE big picture. Talking spiritual may be a step too far for some but the idea is – it’s a big universe of possibilities and serendipity has worked its magic already – make sure you keep connected.
  • Nurture your own space of reflection that supports your life journey.
  • Iterate. Iterate. Iterate. Your focus will improve as possibilities emerge.
  • Use different languages with different stakeholders.
  • If you want to change others (other stakeholders), you need to be open to changing yourself first.
  • And never give up!

Practical Tips for Collaborative Leaders

  • Develop in collaboration, a common agreement about the objectives and how the relationship will operate.
  • Facilitate enthusiasm – and if necessary, make this a focus to get things started.
  • When things go wrong it’s important that you have created open relationship communications to discuss and resolve difficult issues.
  • Charismatic leadership is not the only way – collaboration is more about helping all voices be heard and agreements reached before acting.
  • Yes, it takes longer but creates stronger bonds to complete the goal successfully.
  • Finally, collaboration is about sharing control. Think about the consequences of too much control and aim to lead with a light touch.

For more tips on achieving leadership across your teams, theHRhub team are ready to help. We are the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. Like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag! Find out more about us here.

Photo Credit: Valentin Delaye

Hiring from the beginning: Knowing Your Intern From Your Apprentice

When it comes to hiring inexperienced staff, many business leaders are open to the idea of hiring in some extra help to the next generation of workers: Interns, Work Experience Placements or Apprentices are all considered and for many the terms seem interchangeable. But if you’re interested in hiring any of these routes, you need to understand the key features of each in order to work out which is right for you. 

Here are some of the key features of each:

Type Purpose Length of engagement Entitlement
Work Experience Often created for those students still at school, work experience students  learn about a business by shadowing them or helping out.   Short term – often 1 or 2 weeks Tend to be students c. 16 or younger so exempt for the National Minimum Wage.
Internship Students who are attending higher education may spend time with an employer, learning about the business as part of a higher education course or getting a feel for the type of business or industry they want to be a part of. Short term – a few weeks to a few months Normally graduates who may be entitled to the National Minimum Wage if they are promised further work. Travel and/ or subsistence expenses recommended.
Volunteering To provide opportunities for individuals to work with a charity or voluntary body, there is no particular demographic this group covers and there will normally be no specific duties assigned by the employer. Short term to long term No entitlement to the National Minimum Wage.
Apprentices To provide students or school leavers with an opportunity to complete a qualification whist learning about a business or trade. Apprenticeships are set up within a framework provided by a Learning Provider. Long term – often up to a year Minimum wage from as low as £3.30 per hour for those under 19 or in their first year as an apprentice, rising in some parts of the UK where there is hefty competition for these individuals.

As a bonus however, small businesses can often claim up to £1500 in funding for these.

For any of the types of work placement above which are unpaid, it’s not to say that you shouldn’t contribute anything to their daily grind however, and most progressive employers pay either a weekly allowance or subsistence costs plus travel for those where they have no legal obligation.   

Regardless of pay or title, with anyone working on your premises, you will have a responsibility for their health & safety whilst in your care and you need to make sure that you have sufficient liability insurance to cover them.

Employ 5 people or less? Congratulations, no need to undertake a specific risk assessment. However above that and it’s expected that you will be expected to identify the particular needs of the individuals by undertaking a risk assessment as you would normally in regards to any Health and Safety aspects.

There are numerous ways you can start to offer these opportunities and getting them set up for success and for more ideas, see our post earlier this year on How To Get The Most Out Of Your Work Placement.

If you have concerns or want help hiring and onboarding your newbies, then we can help. Get in touch today or by calling 0203 627 7048 to arrange an initial, no-obligation consultation. We’ll pinpoint any potential issues that are at play in your workplace, and give you practical advice around what you need to do next.

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