Each month, we speak to an industry expert from a different discipline of business to gain essential insights and powerful advice to help foster that all-important growth to propel your career to new heights.
Today, we’re talking to Michelle Wright, founder and CEO of Cause4, an award-winning social enterprise that helps support charitable organisations across a range of sectors. Atop entrepreneur with countless plaudits to her name, Michelle started Cause4 after leaving the London Symphony Orchestra, and has since gathered massive recognition in private sector fundraising.
Here, she discusses ways to overcome the challenges of managing a growing team.
When a team undergoes a period of growth, it can be difficult to work as closely with every team member as you did before. What processes and procedures can you put in place to compensate for the decrease in contact?
We start the week with a 15-minute huddle so that everybody can share headlines of the previous week, the week ahead and we can outline any challenges early. We don’t have a lot of time for face-to-face meetings, but the team knows they can contact me anytime if they need help. With flexible working and remote locations, the ‘open-door policy’ becomes a state of mind.
We have a regular team meeting every six weeks or so where staff can ask any questions, they want of me as CEO.
We also regularly run an anonymous survey to check the ‘temperature’ of the organisation and provide a different way to share ideas and issues.
In a larger team, how do you recognise success, and how is this different to recognising success in a smaller team?
Recognition is essential. I don’t think that changes; depending on the size of the team. We encourage all feedback to be shared – good or bad – for learning. Good feedback is communicated to the team; we encourage staff to list their successes and when they have received feedback as part of the appraisal process. It’s very easy to forget when things have gone well sometimes, so we try to put this at the front of our minds.
Team and company culture can become watered down as the team grows, unless it’s emphasised properly. What strategies can a manager do to ensure this doesn’t happen?
We have a culture plan that we regularly update, which is the responsibility of two of our managers to keep relevant and then implement. It means we are constantly thinking about culture and our approach to it is relatively formalised. Every company should work at this every day.
More team members can lead to a shift in dynamic and a disruption to the norm. How can managers reduce the potential friction?
We have not been great at this in the past. We now go through a much lengthier recruitment process and hire based on commitment to company values. This has revolutionised our hiring, although it can still be difficult to ensure that people are genuine. We are a small team, so if somebody doesn’t perform it really has a significant impact on our business and reputation.
What resources can a team use to improve organisation and collaboration as you grow in number and responsibility?
We try to automate processes as much as we can. We now have a good project management system in place, and we are gradually automating finance using programmes like DocuSign for contracts. Finding time to focus on operations can be a challenge but it’s these things that contribute to efficiency and overall well-being of the team.
As more people join the team, what can a manager do to make sure communication and goals remain clear and focused?
Our business is fast moving, and no two days are the same. The key is regular short communication. I have five-minute calls most days with my senior managers to move work forward, keep momentum and deal with any issues promptly.
Micromanagement is often viewed negatively. However, can a ‘hands-on’ approach to management be an effective method when properly implemented?
It really depends on the individual in relation to management style. If somebody is newer to our type of work, we tend to be more hands-on in the management. Similarly, somebody can be quite experienced but still need reassurance from management. Others will be much more suited to handling more autonomy but will know to check in when challenges arise. Our approach has to be tailored.
Increasing numbers of people means there’ll be more opinions and viewpoints to consider; what methods can be implemented to effectively create consensus?
In the day-to-day running of the business, we find that opinions tend to be aired freely and we generally work towards common goals. If we have more complex structural areas to consider, we go through proper consultation with staff and they have lots of chance in groups or one to one, to have a say and for us to come to a shared understanding.
We’d like to thank Michelle for taking the time to talk to us. And if you are looking for more from The Art of Management, be sure to check out the rest of the series below:
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