As a business coach, I have the privilege of working with businesses where there are multiple owners and often coaching multiple board members and owners.
Sometimes all owners are operationally involved while other structures see those who act as investors and have no desire to be operational. Their involvement may be limited to attending board meetings to check on results and act as an advisor.
One of the most important areas I have to unpack is how the owners work together.
One of the key factors in successful businesses is getting the owners and senior leaders to work in partnership.
A partnership model is where the owners and senior leadership team can communicate, share information and collaborate openly. They feel comfortable challenging each other to expose potential risks and share their knowledge and experience to mitigate those risks.
When thinking about whether you have a partnership model, you can ask:
Does everyone have an opportunity to participate?
Are people clear on what the critical success factors are and are they measured on these?
Are there clear actions from meetings and are actions recorded with appropriate resources allocated and timeframes for completion noted?
Working competitively as a leader is dangerous
One of the most damaging approaches to relationships is to work with a competitive mindset. What I see when a competitive mindset is present is a lack of sharing of information, people working in silos, master-servant relationships forming, leading to people not feeling heard and feeling like their opinions will not matter.
Not surprisingly leaders disengage, become non-productive and the effort they put in is tailored to what they believe they can achieve or get away with rather than their honest opinion and their best efforts.
So, why this behaviour?
So why does the competitive behaviour still exist in a lot of Australian businesses? Simply put, we still imbue old behaviours from a controlling management style.
This management style often makes boards dysfunctional and the opinion of the singular guide the ship rather than the strengths of the diverse board. Board members wait for people to leave or retire before they talk about change and risk the wrath or rock the boat.
A lot of companies are still run on the whims of someone who often lets their ego and emotion dictate their decisions – with mistake after mistake being made. And no accountability…
Having a genuine desire to work together is good starting point but often outside intervention is needed to reset standards, rules of operating together and new structures, meeting agendas and accountability. Although the process can take some time to achieve, the ability of the board to focus on what is really important, drive strategy and manage risk effectively should really be the end goal.
Often times when people are stuck in the same old patterns change can feel threatening. Aligned and active owners and boards working with senior leaders will always outperform their competitors and are more sustainable. In any market, in any industry in any sector.