Do you have the right skills to run your organisation?

On the subject of key concepts or models that can make the biggest difference to the way you run your business, here’s a thought: the likelihood is that you have great technical skills, and quite possibly great social skills. But do you have the skills in place that you need to run your organisation? Possibly not. And you can’t run a good organisation on technical skill, or social skill, alone.

There’s a third set of skills you and all your staff need to distinguish, and then develop: professional working skills. These include all those great management and leadership skills that you can learn on training courses, but here I am just asserting the need for them – creating a ‘placeholder’ for them in your mind, if you like:

You are NOT a family!

Owner-managers of small and medium-sized businesses often make a virtue of being a ‘family’, or of being ‘friendly’. If we ask what they do in the way of organisation development, they often say, “Oh we do a lot! We’re always going out together and having fun. We go out for a big lunch every so often. In fact we’re going out for one next week…”

Do you find yourself saying ‘we’re like family’? What’s the problem with that? Well, being ‘one big happy family’ is not the way to run a business that is durable, that provides a satisfying environment for people to work in and that is financially stable and sound.

A really great business, and a really great team, develop a life of their own, beyond your traits, skills and vision alone – and professional people develop and negotiate ways of working that go beyond ‘getting on well’ together (though that can be a bonus).

You don’t need “someone just like me”

Too many business owners recruit people on the basis that they like them, or even worse, that they are like them! Don’t have your attention on ‘will we get on well together?’ but on ‘is this person and their skills right for my business?’ Your business, beyond a certain point, develops a life of its own. It’s an organism in its own right, and needs room to breathe.

The demands on your role change, from the huge energy needed to set up and run a small start-up organisation, to the very different demands of nurturing this newly formed organism and helping it to thrive. And you won’t achieve that by trying to be its ‘mum’ or ‘dad’, or by mucking in with the guys and girls and trying to be one of them.

As its leader, your organisation now needs you to create and maintain an environment in which it can thrive – and you’ll often do that best by standing back and looking carefully at what it needs to become and stay healthy.

‘Getting on well’ together isn’t enough

And for staff, there’s a huge and critical difference between working relationships – which, as a professional, you must have and maintain – and personal relationships with your work colleagues, and customers, which you may choose to have or not to have. Having a social relationship with your colleagues and customers is a matter of personal taste. Some people like to, and some don’t. But you are paid to have a working relationship with your colleagues. How much time and effort do you spend on creating and refining that relationship? And, no, I don’t mean over a pint at the pub!

The trouble is, most people in business get the two confused, which can cause problems. I’d go so far as to say that people who don’t have much of a personal relationship often have much better working relationships than friends who work together. Why? Because they have to work at creating and maintaining them.

People who are ‘friends’ often rely too heavily on their friendship to see them through. And ‘friend’ communication patterns, however useful for maintaining a friendship, are often inadequate to manage and maintain the complex issues of status, dominance, leadership and calling to account that are needed in a working relationship.