Why many business owners are ineffective managers - and what to do about it

Why many business owners are ineffective managers - and what to do about it

Owning your own business and having a team do not automatically make you a good manager. In this article, business consultant Anthea Stevanovic shows that understanding the separate behaviours and objectives of a general manager and a CEO/founder will enable you to consciously wear the hat that fits each role and embody the corresponding behaviours to pursue the best outcomes for your business.


May 24, 2022

5 mins read

You own your own business. You’ve built a team around you. But you still seem to be doing everything. Why are your staff ineffective and why don’t they seem to be doing what they are meant to do? This article explores why owning your own business and having a team do not automatically make you an effective manager.

Every business owner wants a business that runs efficiently – one where everything just works. They want a business where the work comes in, the clients are taken care of and the team thrives. They want a reliable team that ensures the business runs like a well-oiled machine. Generally speaking, business owners assume that bringing on staff, especially the first few, will solve all of their problems. This, however, is far from reality. Most of the business owners I work with or speak to experience multiple problems in their businesses that can be traced back to the same root cause: their ineffectiveness as managers.

People management does not come naturally to most business owners

Bringing on staff tends to create a host of other problems for the business owner and amplifies the inefficiencies and issues within the business. The owner ends up putting more time and effort into the business, working more but not necessarily achieving more. Most business owners think that owning a business and having the ability to hire staff will automatically make them effective at people management: at building a productive team, at communicating what needs to be done and at delegating. This is a myth. People management does not come naturally to most of us. However, it is something that can be developed. Generally speaking, when you are on the ground, in your business, it is a skill and way of being you need to practice in order to perfect.

It doesn’t surprise me that business owners aren’t necessarily good at people management. Many business owners seem to outwardly possess the characteristics of an entrepreneur, but being an entrepreneur is completely separate from managing a team of people. Furthermore, entrepreneurship is not only born from 'personality traits', skills, qualifications and expertise. It hinges on who and how we are being, the deeper qualities referred to as ‘Aspects of Being’ in the Being Framework.

Generally speaking, entrepreneurs are fantastic at the big-picture stuff: being the visionary, starting the business, identifying gaps in the market, idea generation, sales and relationship building. However, more often than not, they are so engrossed by their ideas and vision for the future that they aren’t effective at the day-to-day organisational components of the business, such as managing a team. They can fall into the trap of expecting that the people they bring into the business will know what to do, and they’ll want them to do it with little input from them. 

The hats we wear as business owners

For a business to function well you need to wear both the CEO/founder hat and the general manager hat. Ideally, these two hats would be worn by different people with the relevant skill sets – and for the record, they are two very different skill sets. But let’s face it: when you are hiring for the first time, it’s likely your business won’t be able to afford to bring on a general manager. This means you, as the business owner, will have to wear both hats. 

Wearing more than one hat in a business is not a novel concept – business owners do it every single day. What may be a new concept, however, is identifying which hat to wear before you start to work in that area. You will have far greater potential to achieve more effective results by following this practice. By consciously bringing your awareness to the hat you are about to wear before you undertake a particular function in your business, and how you need to be in order to successfully undertake that function, you are already ten steps ahead. 

Aside from having each role in the business documented so the responsibilities of each hat are readily identifiable, I like to get my clients to think about the outcome they are trying to achieve and then write a list of the ways they need to BE in order to achieve that outcome. This is something you can do right now to help you become a better manager. Let’s explore this concept by looking at the difference between the CEO/founder hat and the general manager hat. 

The CEO/founder hat

Every CEO/founder works towards an overarching vision of creating a viable and expanding business – an enterprise where everyone knows what they are doing and what is expected of them. This means the business is making money, the vision is clearly articulated, there are effective policies and systems in place, there is growth in all areas, the culture is positive, etc.

Some ways a CEO/founder needs to be in order to achieve the above are:

  • Forward-thinking or being of higher purpose
  • Open/vulnerable
  • Communicative and present
  • A big-picture thinker/visionary
  • A responsible, empowered and authentic leader
  • Charismatic
  • Flexible, agile and free-spirited
The general manager hat

The outcome that a general manager works towards is a fully functioning business that follows all company policies and procedures and achieves all set targets. This means the business is running efficiently, everyone is following the policies and procedures, and all staff are held accountable and are achieving their targets, etc.

Some ways a general manager needs to be in order to achieve this objective are:

  • Detail oriented 
  • Organised and resourceful
  • Systemised and reliable
  • Communicative and present
  • Assertive and accountable
  • A responsible, authentic and proactive leader
  • Structured and methodical

As you can see, the outcomes of both hats are considerably different, so it’s only natural that the way you need to be in order to achieve those outcomes is also different – more big picture for the CEO/founder and operational for the general manager.

Next time you are having issues with managing your team or facing any problems relating to your people, I encourage you to stop and consider which hat you need to be wearing for the task at hand or function you are performing. Think about whether you are approaching the situation as a CEO/founder or as a general manager. Decide which hat you should be wearing, and be clear about how you need to be in order to achieve the results you want.

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