Natalie has built a business that others would be envious of. Her company has approximately 20 employees, and she holds all the risk, she does the stressing over ensuring people are paid, having enough money in the bank account, making sure enough business comes through the door, ensuring everyone is happy.

Natalie also has someone who is in the business in a day to day way, her manager a  – Paul. He looks after the day to day running of the place and does a superb job for Natalie.

Its all good . . .until its not

When Paul started, Natalie warmly invited him into her business, he took ownership, cleared things up, made sure everyone was happy, but then something changed. Paul started to have stronger opinions about the company, and he worked ridiculous hours, which meant Natalie felt like she had too as well, he started acting as though he owned the business. Natalie started to feel a power struggle. She felt like as the business owner, and her company was being run by someone else. 

It can be lonely in business, can’t it?

When we employ people to help us, we do give over a little control, we talk to them about our decisions, and they become invaluable assets, don’t they? But what happens when they overstep the mark? What happens when their own bias gets in the way which then stops decisions being made at a commercial level or you are no longer aligned?

Natalie has to reset her expectations and the boundaries that they had in place. Natalie has to say “this is okay” or “this is not okay”. Natalie had to grab her power back before someone else was running her business.

This situation doesn’t just impact business owners when you are the boss of a department or organisation, and your right-hand person feels they own the role as much as you, this can happen.

Here’s what we did:

  • We unpacked all of the issues
  • We looked at all the options
  • We decided key themes

We unpacked all of the issues.

What was happening, why it was so, how it had come to this, what were the events that led to this, Natalie’s role in it, Paul’s role in it, and how it had made Natalie feel. She owned a lot of the issues. Once all the problems were on the table, it was easier to find a way forward.

We looked at all the options.

Options like, maybe it’s time for Paul to leave the business to reduce his voice, to ignoring it and hoping it would go away (it never does) to having a clear and courage filled conversation. 

What we didn’t do was list all of Paul’s negative traits, this is a person who had been instrumental in setting this business up and felt like he owned the company and was behaving this way. Wouldn’t we all love employees who have this much skin in the game? 

We decided the vital themes

We role-played the conversations, and how they may play out, what response we may get, how we would deal with this and what the fall out might be. One thing we knew for sure, Paul was an integral part of the business, but the power had shifted so significantly that we could no longer ignore it nor did we want to lose Paul, it’s a fine line isn’t it?

Has this ever happened to you? Have you had employees who have so much skin in the game that the lines of authority start to blur? Have you had to have that awkward conversation and be clear with them?

I’m Emma, and I’m a business and executive coach who believes wholeheartedly in the potential of women. My coaching philosophy is simple- taking action leads to results- and I love working with women in business and in corporate roles to take their passion and drive and transform their professional and personal lives.

Be enthusiastic, optimistic and energetic, every day.

Em x