“He’s Lost the Dressing Room.” Or the Sales Team…

Three-nil and their heads have gone down. You know, Mark, you start to wonder if the stories are true – if he’s lost the dressing room…

Too true. And if that’s happened there’s no way he’ll survive.

And sure enough two days later he’s gone and the bookies are betting on the replacement. Another football manager handed his P45 for ‘losing the dressing room.’ Or – if you’re not a long-suffering football fan – losing the respect of his players to such an extent that they’re ignoring his instructions and quite possibly deliberately playing badly in an attempt to get the manager sacked.

The parallels with business are obvious. Anyone who’s worked in a large organisation has seen instances of managers ‘losing’ their teams. They fail to get the best out of them, they fail to develop their full potential – and when it all goes wrong they very quickly shift the blame on to the team.

I saw it any number of times in my business career: sometimes it was hard to pin down the cause. Was the manager making mistakes – or was the culture in the company such that all managers were fair game?

But whatever the cause of the disease, the first symptom was always the same.


Which takes me neatly back to last week

I talked about three things the owner of an SME simply couldn’t accept – dishonesty, negativity and mediocrity. Disrespect is the fourth one – and not only can you not accept it, you need to take action at the first hint of it.

The workplace is far less formal than it used to be. And ‘banter’ – or ‘bantz’ as I believe we’re now supposed to call it – seems to be the only way a lot of people can communicate. The problem is that one person’s banter is someone else’s sexism, racism – or outright disrespect.

So what do you do if the problem rears its ugly head in your business? At first glance it’s easy to say the problem won’t apply to most members of TAB York: after all, they’re not huge companies with multiple teams and corresponding managers. But I think disrespect is even more worrying in smaller companies – especially as the business starts to grow.

Most of my members and potential members probably follow a similar business model: owner(s) – one or two trusted lieutenants – and then the team(s). So the problem of disrespect is easy to spot – but in a small company it can be remarkably hard to tackle.

Twenty or thirty years ago it would have been simple. Find the ringleaders and fire them. Not so today – not unless you want to spend your days with the HR lawyers and the employment tribunal. But if one of your trusted lieutenants is under fire from his team, you cannot allow it to continue. You have to find a solution – and you may have some tough questions to answer.

Do you trust your lieutenant? Is he a key part of your long term strategy? After all, if The Alternative Board is about anything, it’s about building a successful business and making sure you never miss the Nativity Play. The layer of management underneath the owners is absolutely crucial to that.

But if you’ve a seed of doubt, then the disrespect of the team is probably a sign of things to come. Don’t let the situation fester. As Macbeth reminds us, “If it were done … then ‘twere well it were done quickly.”

There’s one last question to consider: how does the owner of a business command respect? It’s easy to say that the answer is to work harder/longer than anyone else: to be able to do everyone’s job. But in the long run that will damage your health, your family and almost certainly your business. As I said last week, you command respect by leading: by setting the direction, outlining the vision and ultimately, empowering your team to achieve their potential and get there themselves.

With that I’ll leave you to what I hope is a remarkably productive Friday – followed by a remarkably relaxing weekend…


  1. Jo Clarkon · March 13, 2015

    Whilst all your blogs resonate and make great points, this is probably one of the ‘truest’ from my perspective It’s a bit like the advert – ‘respect – priceless, for everything else there’s that well know credit card’! You can buy lots of things but you can’t buy respect and as a business leader you earn it in exactly the way you describe it you want to grow and develop your business. And you have to do it consistently, all the time, whether you feel like it or not. Thanks for reminding me Ed!!!

    • edreidyork · March 13, 2015

      Great point around consistency Mrs Clark(s)on, and particularly about the fact there will be times you don’t feel like doing it

  2. Jo Clarkon · March 13, 2015

    Help if I’d spelt my name right – Clarkson not Clarkon!!

  3. Simon Hudson · March 13, 2015

    Excellent food for thought, as always (apart from the football analogy – glad you explained that for us).
    In terms of commanding respect I suspect it is one of those things that the harder you try to be respected the more elusive it is; rather the power seems to me to be in living your principles and holding others accountable for doing the same. Consistency, clarity and purpose.

    The other dimension this has me thinking about is what happens when there is someone people respect, but don’t like. There are those who can be respected for what they know and can do, but not for who they are – that’s a challenge and you allude to that as you talk about how essential trusted lieutenants are to the business. However I do believe that people can change; and organisational restructuring can minimise any negative impacts.
    The reverse is true, of course. There are people who are liked but not respected and I doubt we can afford to keep these people in the organisation.

    • edreidyork · March 14, 2015

      Hi Simon – the “respect but don’t like” scenario seems to be an even more fascinating one for business owners than corporates, but theoretically it’s in our gift to only hire “respect AND like” people. Yet are we letting the business down by excluding potential talent just because we don’t like them? Very tricky!!

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