In the legend of Camelot, King Arthur created a “round table” at which his knights met. It symbolized that while the king had the final say, all at the table had the right to voice their opinions. And all were equally listened to, and considered.
When working with independent advisory firm owners, I strongly suggest that they take a similar “Arthurian” approach with partners and all employees. And I’ve found that those owners who take this advice to heart tend to have more success, and an easier time managing the businesses.
Admittedly, most owners don’t actually buy a large round table. But the good ones act as if they have; treating every employee with respect, and valuing their contributions to the success of the business.
It’s true that all employees are not of equal value to a firm, and consequently aren’t compensated equally. Senior advisors, rainmakers, and portfolio managers, for instance, tend to have a greater impact upon a firm’s services and revenues, and therefore are paid more.
But if you don’t think that every employee can make an impact on a firm’s success, you haven’t seen what a surly receptionist can do to your client retention and new client closing rates, or the impact a so-so tech guru can have on productivity.
The takeaway here is that in a small business, every job is important. And the insights and ideas of any employee can help make the business better, and sometimes, a lot better. Bottom line: It’s important to listen to what everyone has to say.
What’s more, when every employee in a firm believes that their role is important, they will take their job more seriously. They will work harder, be more conscientious, and take more responsibility. They even will become better team members: working together, and helping out each other when necessary.
On the other hand, when people start to feel “superior” to others, or inferior, that teamwork breaks down, and both moral and innovation decline.
It’s the responsibility of a good owner and leader to prevent this from happening. And the best way that I’ve found to do that is to create a culture in which everyone is considered an equal: Where everyone has a seat at the table and all contributions and opinions are considered.
This creates what I call an “autonomous culture,” one in which all employees get what they need in the way of support and encouragement, and they can help others get what they need.
When employees have the ability to take care of themselves, they need very little management. This gives the owner more of what she/he needs; more time to focus on building a better, more successful business.