“Do the right thing, rather than trying to be liked”

“Do the right thing rather than trying to be liked.” That’s what Angela Spindler, CEO of retailer N Brown, said about how she transformed the company.

It’s good advice for any business owner. And the truth is you’re being negligent if you worry more about what your staff will think than doing what is right for the long term health of your practice.

This comes up regularly in mastermind meetings. I know it’s a challenge for lots of optometrists and practice owners because no-one prepares you for managing and leading people at university. You have to get good at this by yourself.

I’m a nice guy (if I say so myself) but I learned early in my business career that as the owner you have no option but to do what’s right for the business. Any other course you take will lead to perpetual frustration and the decline of your business.

I try to be likeable with my team. I really do. But I never let that get in the way of me calling it like I see it. If I need to give tough feedback or if I need to repeatedly nag them about something until they start doing it the way it needs to be done, then that is what I do.

But I also regularly and repeatedly explain my position to them. My responsibility as the business owner is to grow the practice and ensure we’re doing as well as we can do. So if I see a problem I only have two options. Deal with it or ignore it. If I ignore it, it will likely get worse and I wouldn’t be doing my job.

Lots of small problems left un-dealt with quickly turn into a crisis. So I’m always going to deal with it and bring it out into the open. Even if it means having uncomfortable conversations.

Over the years I’ve had to have countless uncomfortable conversations with staff about everything from personal hygiene, body odour, recreational drugs, sick days, lateness, lunch breaks, smoking, not wanting to wear glasses, moodiness. You name it.

But whether it has to do with behaviour, attitude or following processes, you have to have those conversations every time. You have to tell them what is expected. No if’s. No buts. The reality is it stops becoming uncomfortable the more you do it. And I’m doing it daily.

I tell my team I’ll always be open and honest with them. I’d recommend you take the same approach with your team. Explain your position and explain it’s not personal. It’s your job.

It’s actually in their interest because the better the practice does, the better they do, the more opportunity and security they’ll have. If your team is the right team, they’ll respect you for it.

As mean-old Dan Kennedy says, your staff are unlikely to come visit you in the old people’s home, so don’t go thinking of them as friends. They are your employees. You have to be the boss.

Does your team culture need a shot in the arm? Do you want to help your team develop a higher level of character, personality and mentality? The Staff Training Workshop is where they will find it. June 19-21, Manchester. Email info@opticalsuccessacademy.com to book your places. Limited places remaining!