Blog Archives

Death of the Manager

The ‘death’ of the manager as businesses flatten structures

As businesses grow and develop most add in layers of management. Those who start out on the ‘front line’ move up the ladder into management roles. Teams grow; hierarchical structures take power and responsibility away from those who are face to face with customers. Managers move further away from the day-to-day delivery of the business, the needs of the customer and the role they were recruited to do (and were really good at).

In layered businesses, managers may take responsibility for …

  • Communicating messages down from the top to the bottom.
  • Addressing poor performance and conflict.
  • Keeping teams motivated and happy.
  • Protecting teams things they didn’t think they needed to know.
  • Making decisions about the best way forward.

removing a layer of managementOwners are used to knowing everything that goes on in their business, a hangover from the early days when they needed to be involved in every aspect and I can be hard to let go. This tight control has worked well for them, taking their business from start-up and through turbulent times into a successful business. Frequently however owners are not making the best use of the amazing and varied skills in their team. Letting go is often the first steps an owner must take if they art to accelerate their business growth and performance.

Business owners often highlight their frustrations around a lack of individual accountability and initiative in their team. Often these issues are of their own making, in part due to the nature of hierarchical businesses and a paternal leadership style. There are often issues around trust, rumours, politics and complaints.

The owners we work with are looking for something different, away from traditional hierarchies. They are seeking something that allows them to maintain the agility and culture of their early days where everyone got stuck in and was accountable for delighting each customer.  They understand the value each employee needs to bring to the business. People focus on the structure and their next move or opportunity to climb the ladder rather than actually doing a great job.

As an owner, you’ve worked hard to recruit talented and motivated people. In our experience people come to work to do a great job, they want to be amazing. However, owners often complain that their people have moved from excited and engaged high performers (real shining stars) to indifferent cynicism (or grumpy expert). Individually they were all doing their job, however, they aren’t making the best of their collective capability.

What would happen if you pushed accountability to the lowest point in the business? If you simply removed all managers in the business and simply empowered people to make decisions and choose what they needed to do each day? If you created a business and culture where everyone is productive in ways for which they were originally recruited, adding value to the business every day. It is often clear from our conversations with owners that traditional models are just not going to fit with their innovative high growth businesses. Look out for a case study in the new year where one of the businesses we are working with is doing just that.

We work with leaders and business owners to deliver help them with these challenges, to empower their teams and take the business to the next stage.

If this is something you would like to work on with your team, give us a call and we can arrange to meet and talk about your specific challenges.



Leadership in a flat structure

The world is flat – Leadership in a flat structure

Collaborative working, agile decision-making, clear communication frameworks, and innovation through continuous improvements.

Leadership in a flat structureFor some time now, the predominant trend in the businesses we work with has been towards flat and lean structures. Many owners want to build on the energy of the early days in a start-up with everyone working together. All of the workspaces we visit are open plan and employees have direct access to those they need to collaborate with at all levels in the business. Their role in the business is based on capability, initiative, ability to deliver and work with the team. In these businesses leadership is about everyone assuming accountability.

Going ‘flat’ is not the easy option, the trend toward flat businesses poses its own challenges – and capability and competence in leaders can be a significant gap. As the traditional route of rising through layers of management disappears, a new style of leadership is emerging where each employee takes personal responsibility for their accountabilities and role in the team.

As a rule leadership competence is usually acquired by observing others and by trial-and-error. In flat organisations, when project leads are always shifting, there isn’t always a clear model. What can business do to develop great future leaders while maintaining the benefits of a flat structure? How can the development of leaders be supported as growing businesses change and grow? How can they keep the flexibility and freshness of the early stages of start-up while also finding consistency and stability in order to grow a sustainable business? There isn’t a single answer; innovation can come from any type of structure, hierarchical or flat. However, it is clear strong leadership is key in bringing creative ideas to life.

Here are some ideas to think about when creating your flatter business structure:-

  • Recruit for the core competencies important for your business.

Understand the core behaviours you need to drive your business growth and recruit against these. Skills and experience will always be essential, but in a flat structure they’re not enough. The value of positive, responsible, and accountable team members who take action cannot be overestimated.

  • Reward leadership. 

Be clear about what leadership means within your business, then reward it. In a flat structure, leadership means supporting your own growth, together with that of the business and others. It also means creating learning opportunities, taking risks, leading to new situations and stepping outside your comfort zone to learn new skills.

  • Embed coaching. 

Address the gaps in leadership by, building learning and coaching programs with clear outcomes and a positive impact on your business performance. Leaders who coach can support the onboarding of your new starters and grow the capabilities of others.

  • Establish communication frameworks. 

The breakdown in the flow of information, especially in businesses where collaboration and project work is at their core can pose big challenges. How teams come together on a project is vital. Your frameworks can be digital, or simple processes. Appointing a communication guardian can make sure projects are kept on track project.

  • Be clear on your business values and put them to work.

Ensure your business rewards self-awareness and emotional intelligence to create a culture of leadership throughout your business.

Take a look at our case studies to gain an insight into how this can work in practice and sign up to our newsletter if you want to receive updates in the new year as we create more case studies.

Onboarding Team Members

Ideas for onboarding your new talented team member

onboarding new staffYou’ve recruited an amazing new member for your team. It was hard work finding the right person, now it’s important to keep them engaged and motivated. In growing businesses, one of the biggest challenges is keeping pace with the number of new people you need to meet you customer/client demands.

When things take off it’s important to ensure that each person you hire is set up to be successful from day one, each person who joins your business is affected by your onboarding/induction process. It is important to have a great and effective onboarding experience for each new starter and a bit of effort up front means you can.

Employee onboarding done badly is handing someone a computer and telling them where to sit. A well thought through process, executed well, leaves a lasting impression and is the first step in keeping your talented people excited, happy, and engaged. Setting up someone for long-term success takes thought and time, but it’s always worth the effort.


The first step you can take is research, to uncover first-hand experience of your current process, you could ask the following questions:-

What were the first few days like after we hired you? What information did you receive that was useful? How did it make you feel about the business?

  • What was your first week at work like? How it did feel for you and what happened?
  • What worked well and what do you wish you had more of?
  • (I’m sure you can think of lots more)

Keeping your employee experiences as the focus means you will you make focused improvements and create a meaningful onboarding process for your people.


Meet the Newbie

Ask your new starters to create a quick bio and share it with the team – this can be face to face, as an email or posted on your intranet. A simple template with questions means they don’t have to come up with what to say all on their own.

Who does what

Create a “Meet the Team” Doc so your new starters can see who everyone else is and begin to learn whom they can go to and what for.  This can help break the ice and get conversations started.

Make time

Schedule in time for new starts to meet with their team/ and other team leads. Simple guidelines for these sessions are useful to set expectations on both sides and to ensure the new team member understands team roles. These sessions can also help to give insight into how people are working collaboratively toward the company vision and goals.

Social time

Make a point of getting out of the office with new colleagues, and this encourages you to chat about things outside of work. Some companies have “First Lunches’, where the team orders in lunch to celebrate your new team member and make them the star of the show.

Getting Organised

The first few days and weeks are an exciting (and crucial) time for you and your new starter, but there is also a lot to get through and usually an extended to-do list. Having a complete “getting started” process all in one place makes things easier and ensure you don’t miss anything. Break it up into tasks that can be completed before starting and in the first week. If you have lots of new starters in a month it might be worth considering an on-line to keep track of everything and everyone system. There are many HR tools available, and I would recommend trying a few out on trial.

It can be helpful and reassuring to your new team member to send out some extra details like:-

  • Where to go – a map and photo of our front door
  • What time to show up
  • What to expect
  • Who they’ll meet within their week
  • What to normally wear to work,
  • What to expect for lunch and timings.

Removing some of these anxieties allows people to focus on the important stuff of getting to know their colleagues and the business

Getting started

  • A list of tools the new starter will be using and logins
  • A list of team members + bios
  • A short bio + contact information
  • Security checklist

Fresh perspectives

You will spend plenty of time with each new person, and they will bring fresh eyes: they will see things you may have missed. Through the onboarding period schedule a series of check-ins each month to discuss their insights, changes they might make or what they’d wish they known on day one that they didn’t learn until day 30.

Work friends matter

Being new at work is a bit like from being the new one at school. Wouldn’t it be nice to make a friend on the first day? A sense of purpose fills the air growing businesses as everyone is focused on delivering. To new starters, it can feel like others are too busy or in too much of a hurry.  It’s worthwhile encouraging your team to slow down and take time get to know new people and make them feel welcome.

Work friends matter and friendships will naturally form over time. Feeling settled in shouldn’t wait and many businesses appoint a buddy to look after newbies.  Here are a few things they can do:

  • Make time chat every couple of days to see how things are going.
  • Share a story from the team events
  • Share “unwritten rules”
  • Give a run-down on whom to ask for what

Instead of awkwardness and uncertainty, you’ll have a friendship, support, connections, and a warm welcome, making this a helpful process for any business to put into place.

Head4Performance, or H4P, offer coaching and mentoring for ‘Leaders’ as well as programmes and workshops for nurturing the talent in your business.


Merry Christmas From H4P

Merry Christmas From Head4Performance

Jo and Sara would like to wish all clients of H4P a “Merry Christmas” and we look forward to helping 2017 being a very prosperous “New Year”.

Merry Christmas from H4P

Grow As A Leader

Grow as a leader – invest in you

At Head4Performance much of our work is executive coaching to support owners and leaders in enterprise sized business. They all have stories to tell about finding their way, micromanaging, damaging team morale, and losing an amazing employee because they hadn’t paid enough time and attention to developing their leadership capabilities as the business evolved.

Grow as a leaderMost leaders in small business haven’t had the same development opportunities and experiences as leaders in large corporates who have had years to hone their skills as they work their way up through layers of management.  They benefit from company development programmes, training and executive coaching. Doing the job they learn that being a good leader is important in achieving their targets and delivering the business goals. However, owner leaders of enterprise-sized businesses often neglect to invest in their personal and professional growth to develop their leadership capabilities. This is partly because there is always something that needs to be done and personal reflection and learning is generally not something owners consider; it just hasn’t been important enough. People do get to the top without personal introspection or growth. However, leaders who are really successful understand themselves, their values and motivations. In order to be a great leader, you need to figure yourself out first.

We have discovered great business leaders invest in their development and, most importantly they have learned to:-

  • Trust and to let go of control, instead they support people in doing their jobs.
  • Watch their teams for signs of stress and tension to identify who needs support.
  • Inspire people, helping them work smarter, not harder.
  • Manage relationships, empathise and read people fully and accurately.
  • Recognise who needs appreciation, and who’s motivated by achievement.
  • Use techniques to build strong teams, deal with conflict, and have great conversations.
  • Get results without steamrolling your team.

Most leaders accept that building great working relationships are key to their success, however many have a long way to go before they fully commit to the personal and professional development they need to unlock their potential. And for business owners who hold people’s careers and livelihoods in their hands surely this is a key responsibility.

Head4Performance uses  Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI)  to help leaders understand their own motives and why these are important when relating to others. This understanding allows them to lead with clarity and empathy, build stronger teams, and more effectively navigate conflict. If you would like to know more about how SDI can help you understand your strengths as a leader, please get in touch with Sara ( or Jo (

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A goal without a plan is just a wish.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry