Transitioning from employee to employer can be a difficult and stressful time. Aside from stepping up in the ranks of responsibility, the buddy-to-boss scenario can throw unexpected staff dynamics in amongst the challenges of learning a new job.
Two years ago when Lydia Radich bought New Plymouth Physiotherapy, the business she had worked in as a physiotherapist for the previous 10 years, she struggled to define those employer-employee boundaries.
“You might be really good at being a physio, assessing and diagnosing, but taking on staff that I used to work alongside as an employee and then suddenly, not only becoming their boss but being a good boss, was a totally different ball game,” she says.
Having to work on the business rather than in the business was also difficult for Lydia to get her head around.
“I’d gone from working five days a week and having a full case load, to working two “hands-on” days, with the rest of my week spent managing staff, having meetings and trying to have a good balance,” she says.
“My comfort zone was treating patients, so not having a full case load and having to manage staff was scary.”
Lydia admits she probably didn’t handle certain situations well in the early days.
“I was quite passive when there were issues, and some things I would put in the too-hard basket because I didn’t know how to settle them.”
After giving herself a year to settle in and adapt to new challenges, Lydia turned to Business Mentors New Zealand to help transition her through the next phase of her business journey and was paired with mentor Jennifer Henderson, who she says, gave her the guidance and support to enable her to deal with conflict more effectively.
“Jenny gave me a communications-style resource that I could use on staff so I knew how they responded to conflict and could actually deal with it in a way that suited them, so I’ve had to become quite dynamic with that, learn how to recognise how they need support and how they communicate and then to be able to communicate with them on their level knowing what they respond to.
“Giving me that resource has made life a whole lot easier for me and for my staff. It was much easier to go into those conflicts and resolve them where both parties were happy.”
Jenny says an employer needs to be open and inclusive with their staff if they want to build trust and respect.
“Take your staff with you – ask and listen to them,” she says. “People become engaged, feel empowered and then want to help you to make the business a success when you share your vision and ask them what they think.
“Ask your staff what inspires them, what changes could be made and what will make a difference to their life at work. Get to know your own communication style and that of each staff member, then adapt your own style to suit each of them. If you also develop the communication skills of your staff - your clients will benefit.”
Jenny says it can be challenging for a new employer to adjust their mindset from working for the business only, to working on, and in, the business.
“Their priorities change - they are now running a business and have to make decisions; they have all the legal compliance and employer/employee responsibilities to deal with; the dynamics within the team change and the expectations of the staff change as they are now seen as the boss rather than one of the team.”
But, she says, there are benefits to having worked within the business before taking over the reins.
“You have a head start on how each of your team operates, a good idea on what’s going well and any issues you need to address quickly.”
She advises employers to seek help early if things are not going to plan.
“Get yourself a mentor and spend money on professional advice.”
Lydia loves being a boss now and relishes the new challenges the role brings. Looking back, she says, the timing to take over the business was perfect.
“I’d been a clinician for many years and I needed a new challenge. It’s definitely been really enjoyable and I love getting the best out of my staff, listening to them, directing them and helping them improve their career and skill base.”
She appreciates Jenny’s organisational, communication and presentation skills.
“She presents her information at a level that I can understand and if I can implement something straight away and feel comfortable with it, then that’s fantastic.”
She says being able to chat to someone who she can voice her ideas and concerns with, who gives good structured solid advice, is impartial, non-judgemental and not her “buddy” has been invaluable.
“A lot of people say what they think you want to hear, whereas a Business Mentor gives good practical advice which has been really useful.”
Lydia’s 3 key takeaway points for businesses:
1: Be a good listener
2. Be present in the business
3. Have fun