Lessons in Self Management from Spinal Tap - FP Advance

Lessons in Self Management from Spinal Tap

BY brett

Lessons in Self Management from Spinal Tap | FP Advance

Be the change

As you become more successful you have to start relying on other people, your team, to get things done. It’s not unusual to hear business owners bemoaning their team’s performance from time to time. Sometimes it might even be justified.

However, the only person’s behaviour you can control is yours. If you get that right the team will learn by your own actions.

Here are three challenging areas for you to work on in managing yourself.

1. You are permanently at 11

Some business owners get into trouble after what they thought was a casual conversation with a team member.

Often the team member has walked away thinking they were given an instruction to do something, even if that was not the case.

What’s gone on here?

If you are the owner of the business, everything you say is turned up to volume level 11. What you thought was a casual conversation wasn’t received that way by the team member/s in question.

If someone else is responsible for that particular area of the business, a practice manager or another business partner, they may not want you giving instructions that it’s their job to give. This can lead to tension and confusion all round.

When challenged the business owner can get prickly and defensive, or angry and upset. Sometimes all of those at once.

I’ve seen this situation a lot in my consulting work, and can see all sides of the issue:

a.) The team member is in a power relationship with the business owner
That is, their job security and livelihood depends on the owner to a huge extent. You can be as friendly and down to earth as you like, but it doesn’t change that power relationship. As a result, everything you say assumes major importance, and it’s easy then for things to be misconstrued.

b.) The practice manager or business partner might think that you are interfering (even when that’s not actually true). Understandably, all they see is a low-key conversation, according to you, that leads to a change in behaviour from that team member.

c.) The business owner can legitimately feel a little picked on or victimised. The reality is they might only have had a casual conversation with the team member.

Despite being able to see everyone’s viewpoint here, where does the buck stop?

With the business owner, of course.

It’s not fair! I hear you say. I know, life isn’t fair. But hey ho.

If you are the leader in your organisation, recognise the power you have in your role and use it very carefully.

2. You’re missing the teaching moments

There’s a famous article that originally featured in Harvard Business Review in 1974 entitled, Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey? The basic premise is that employees come to managers (and owners) with a problem, or ‘monkey’. When the manager listens to the problem and says “Let me think about it and come back to you”, effectively the monkey has been passed from the employee to the manager. After a few of these conversations, managers can end up with a bunch of monkeys running around their office. It’s a powerful visual image.

Some business owners love being the go-to person in their business. They must love it, because whenever someone asks them a question they take pride in providing an answer.

If you want to be the indispensable person in your business forever, then go ahead and issue answers and instructions using your hard-earned experience. However, in my opinion, some of these situations provide a missed opportunity for a teaching moment.

If you’d rather build a team of future leaders and free yourself up to do the work you really love on a day-to-day basis, then each of these employee questions provides you with an opportunity to have a coaching conversation with that team member.

These teaching moments will slowly but surely pass on your experience, allowing you to delegate and elevate yourself into a genuinely strategic role at the top of your business.

Yes, it takes more time than just telling people what to do, but it also sows the seeds for long-term growth and greater job satisfaction for you and your team. Failure to grab these opportunities will simply see you stuck on the hamster wheel in ten-years time.

3. You’re not doing your day job

If you want your employees to do their job to a high standard, and you need that to happen if you want to grow without having a nervous breakdown, then you have to do your own job to a high standard.

As businesses grow it becomes essential to create business processes, otherwise the result is chaos and stalled growth.

Yet the people most likely to break the rules, or not follow the new processes, are the business owners themselves.


It could be any of the following:

  • Owners entitlement
  • Too busy generally so you take short cuts
  • The “do as I say, not as I do” mindset
  • You’ve been doing it the old way for 30 years

To be honest it doesn’t matter what the reason is. Some of these might even be valid excuses, if we lived in a world where making excuses would get you to your objective.

But if you want to grow your business, attract and retain good-quality people, and build the business vision you have in your mind’s eye or in your business plan, then you’re going to have to walk the talk as a leader in your organisation.

The owner-adviser mistake

The most common example of rule-breaking behaviour is the owner operating as an adviser.

If you’re an adviser who doesn’t do their file notes after a meeting, or you’re an adviser who doesn’t provide fully completed fact finds for the paraplanning and administration teams to work with, then you’re not holding up your end of the bargain. Effectively you are asking the other people on your team to cover up your sub par performance. Staff with no other job options will tolerate it grudgingly. High performers will leave and go elsewhere.

If you don’t want to do those follow-through jobs, by all means hire yourself a shadow adviser or paraplanner to handle those things for you. However, if you can’t quite afford to do that, then you might have to up your game for a while until you can afford to hire someone and delegate those jobs properly.

You better work

The best leaders work on themselves, because they realise the only person they can be in control of is themselves. Yet when they challenge themselves to improve and perform to a higher standard, often team members will see this and respond in the same way.

If you want your team to be better, you have to get better.

What can you work on this week to improve your own performance?

Let me know how you go.

These Go to 11

Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel explains how his band’s amplifiers go to eleven, “When you need that extra push over the cliff…”

“If you want your team to be better,
you have to get better.”


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ABOUT BRETT DAVIDSON When you work with FP Advance you work with me, Brett Davidson, directly. My motto is ‘advise better, live better’ and I practice what I preach. I’m straight talking and get to the heart of an issue quickly. There’s no beating about the bush, just a focus on helping things improve. Ask my clients – what I teach works.