Just over five years ago my father passed away leaving a huge hole not only for us personally but also professionally. Ridgeview was built on a vision he and Mum had shared back in the early 1990s after selling their previous venture (unrelated to wine) and he had been our business leader from then until his untimely death. It was an extremely difficult time for us all. Not only did we have to deal with the grief of losing a loved one, we also had to step up and run the business ourselves – very much sink or swim.
When I look back, amongst all the other emotions, I remember an overwhelming feeling of determination to deliver Dad’s vision for the business. I felt empowered by the trust and belief he had in me as we worked together on the business strategy over the years. I learnt so much from him about what it takes to be a leader of an ambitious and growing SME, I thought I would share my thoughts on this subject.
A year before Dad passed away, he demonstrated the ultimate act of delegation by stepping aside and allowing me to become the CEO of Ridgeview. We both had hoped there would be a slightly longer handover period, but by then I had effectively been running the business day to day knowing he was there in the background if needed.
Any business coach or mentor will tell you that delegation is a key part of leadership and is critical if you want you and your business to thrive. It is one of the biggest challenges in growing SMEs as often the leaders have been used to doing ‘everything’ which becomes impossible as the business grows. Specialists must be brought in and roles and responsibilities properly defined and supported within the business. Leaders must fully embrace this transition and guide rather than control – there is no point bringing in a specialist who probably has more experience than you in their field, to then micro-manage them, it is counter- productive.
SUPPORT YOUR MANAGEMENT TEAM
Once you have a team in place to delegate responsibilities to, it is crucial not to undermine them. Often in growing SMEs where the management structure is being formalised and new managers brought in or promoted, staff, customers and suppliers who may have
had an informal direct line to you in the past, may continue to use this channel. Do not allow this to happen. It will take time and effort but in the long-term it will be better for all involved and allow the business and your team to flourish.
In order to lead, you must trust your team and demonstrate this trust. Do you allow your Senior Managers to make decisions and commitments on behalf of the business without your prior approval, within pre-defined and well communicated limits? If not, why not? Good leadership is not a dictatorship and delegation of decision making is an important element to demonstrating the trust you have in your team.
It is undeniable that understanding what motivates people in your team unlocks high performance. The skill is once you know what motivates someone, how do you harness this for the benefit of the business.
We use a personal development programme which has been very successful to align personal and professional motivations, in a set of annual goals that align with our business objectives and values.
There is nothing ground- breaking in the above which I think is important as leadership is not supposed to be overly complicated. Much of the time it comes down to listening and being observant in order to know when change is needed and being brave enough to make and manage those changes through the business.
Tamara Roberts is CEO of Ridgeview Wine Estate, producers of the award-winning English sparkling wine. www.ridgeview.co.uk