What Your Team Wants You to Know

We started doing something interesting in our Total Business Reset offering, recently, and the results have been enlightening. We have two carefully crafted surveys—one for principals and one for each team member—and every person completes it, with name attached. We synthesize the findings, but everything is anonymized. That combination is important: no anonymous beefs thrown over the wall, but transparency because the participants are protected and they aren't afraid to be honest.

We’re doing some deeper analysis on the thousands of combined responses to see what we can learn, and thus what we can helpfully share, but there are sufficient trends to share a few highlights here.

What I’m going to share is broadly true of nearly every single firm. At least 95% of them, so you can probably safely assume that they apply to the firm you run. I'll share these overarching themes in two categories.

What Your Team Wants You To Do More Of

  1. Number one on this list, always, is paying more attention to new business, and whatever that takes. Maybe it means a tighter positioning, maybe it means tighter client criteria, or maybe it just means having a marketing plan (you know, those things you do for clients). I concur, too. It’s really rare to find a successful firm where the principal isn’t good at new business, and also disciplined enough to pull it off. And when we are leading an internal succession transfer, the two big hurdles are aptitude for risk…and replacing the principal’s new business success.
  2. Rising above the client work and developing more proprietary thought leadership or even IP. Something they can use to do better work, stand apart from competitors, and be more efficient. This is related to the previous point, obviously, because it provides the best sort of fodder for a marketing plan.
  3. A stronger vision for the future. Where are we headed? Where are we on that journey? What should happen next? It’s hard to get excited about something if there’s not a vision, and a shared vision. At the moment, some of you are flagging people down and urging them to get on the bus, but the nameplate at the top front doesn’t say where it’s going.
  4. Making the tough decisions that most everyone knows you should make, including you. It might be a tough conversation with that very talented jerk, or letting go of an abusive or ungrateful client, or reversing what appeared to be a really good decision at the time. Every one of these concerns seems to focus on a bad employee (who doesn’t fit the culture and/or isn’t contributing much) or a bad client (small or toxic).
  5. Putting better processes in place. Oh, and enforcing them. Here's the most important insight I can give you on this point: entrepreneurs love freedom and hate restrictions (which is their synonym for processes). So in a consciously generous decision, they elect to let the team roam free and figure it out. But that team doesn't work that way, and they appreciate guardrails and clear expectations and establishing a way to do something. Your instincts are kind...but not accurate.

What Your Team Wishes You’d Stop Doing

The big constant here is this pretty simple one, but apparently difficult to pull off. “Quit mucking around in our work and start doing your job. We’re really pretty good at it, and we want you to concentrate on the things that only you can do. This is especially true if you swoop in at the last minute to try and save the day.” We talked about this in an episode entitled How to Drive Your Employees Bat Sh1t Crazy.

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