Helen Burns: How To Keep Your Sanity If You Lead A Team

Posted by

Credit Union 600x400


Helen Burns, a certified Business Coach with ActionCOACH, the World’s #1 Business Coaching Franchise, gives advice on being a team leader…

BUSINESS owners have been known to experience increased blood pressure, extreme hair loss, and other stress-induced conditions as a direct result of interactions with their Team.

The way to avoid these consequences is through consistent application of some sound principles.


Some years ago a supermarket client, employed a young man named Darren.

Darren was a loyal, dedicated teenager (yes, teenager!) with a solid work ethic. He could depend on him to do whatever needed to be done and all he had to do was point him in the right direction.

The business owner called Darren into his office one day to give him an assignment. There was a wire basket full of product that was being discontinued and he wanted the product marked down to move it out.

He told Darren, “Go over to that basket of merchandise on Aisle 1 and mark it half price.” 

I should point out that this was prior to wide spread bar-code scanning and items were still manually priced in some shops.

A little while later, the owner strolled down the aisle to check for completion of this task. What he saw stopped him in his tracks – on every package was written: h-a-l-f p-r-i-c-e!

 Of course what he meant was that he wanted the product marked down to half price.

All he could do was smile because Darren had done exactly what he told him to do. 

If you don’t get what you expect, chances are you did not communicate clearly.

True communication is the response you get.


To delegate means to assign a project or responsibility, set clear goals and targets, and check back periodically.

You also have to realise that you can’t do it all by yourself. This is the opposite of “abdicate,” a sin committed by many business owners. When you abdicate (usually on something you don’t like or want to do), you turn it over to someone and don’t care to follow up or check back.

You REALLY don’t want to know what’s happening; you just want this matter handled. What you fail to realise is that your problems are just beginning. In a different store, a young man named Eddie was in charge of the frozen foods section.

This is the least popular place to work because you spend most of your day in temperatures below 0 degrees.

The manager was glad to have a volunteer (Eddie) and was content to let him handle this unpleasant chore but never checked to see that he was performing his duties responsibly.

 Until the day he didn’t show up for work….Then it was discovered nothing had been rotated, merchandise was frozen to the back of the case, etc.

Hundreds of euro worth of product had to be thrown away and a huge mess cleaned up, not to mention lost sales and wasted payroll hours. When you delegate, you “expect what you inspect”.

Hold Accountable

Do you remember the toughest teacher you ever had in school? This was the one who gave the most homework, administered the hardest tests, didn’t tolerate horseplay in class, etc.

You knew what the rules were and where the line was drawn. You knew there would be consequences if you crossed that line. Consequently, you learned more and produced at your highest level because you knew it was expected and knew you would be held accountable.

As a business owner you are called upon to be a strong leader, articulate a common goal, make the rules, implement key performance indicators, assign who does what by when, support risk-taking, and include everyone on the Team.

By holding them accountable for results, your Team and your business will thrive. Your mission is to support, encourage, and motivate but you can’t do it for them.

You must set the boundaries and then let them make mistakes (within limits) so that they will grow and develop into the Team that runs your commercial, profitable enterprise without you.

• Helen Burns owns and manages Helen Burns and Associates. They are located at 4 Greenview Terrace, Tralee. Contact 087-2863977. See http://www.actioncoach.com/helenburns for more

Comments are closed.