Many moons ago and prior to becoming a practice management and operations consultant, I was a Practice Manager and Partner of a financial planning practice. While Richard, the Managing Partner and the main Adviser and I used to work extremely well together, there were some challenges that we both faced as we came at things from two very different perspectives.
In his book, “Traction – Get a grip on your business”, Gino Wickman says:
“An entrepreneur’s lust needs to be counterbalanced with a [practice] manager’s prudence and discipline. … When it’s structured correctly, the dynamic between the two ‘Unique Abilities’ can be magical.”
In the main, the dynamic between Richard and I was indeed ‘magical’ but it had to be worked on as at times there were inevitable elements of frustration.
Having now worked with Practice Managers of numerous financial planning firms for over 12 years, I’ve grown to realise that while different personalities can most definitely contribute to the potential challenges, there are 6 universal issues that crop up for most individuals in the role of a Practice Manager.
1. ‘I want this done yesterday’ 🔥
Successful Business Owners generate lots of brilliant ideas, however, this is typically paired with impatience. Why wouldn’t such a brilliant idea be implemented right now? Before it’s too late? Whilst trying to listen with enthusiasm, the Practice Manager will be thinking about logistics, the impact on the team, capacity, the agreed business plan and all the other projects on the go.
If no consideration is given to each other’s perspective, feelings of conflict and frustration will emerge. It’s important to remember that there is a big gap between an idea and the reality of bringing it to life. Most of the time ideas can’t be introduced immediately and there are plenty of good reasons for it. If you haven’t read it yet, please head to 👉 Psychology of implementation & how to get it right.
2. ‘I know you are busy but here’s another golden nugget’ 💡
If your team is at or over capacity for whatever reason, a newly found ‘golden nugget’ could be a bridge too far. Practice Managers are ‘fixers’ by nature and will try to ‘do it all’. It’s not unusual for me to hear of Practice Managers of small firms having to temporarily fill a role of a leaver, while trying to stay on top of, for example, compliance, team issues, workload management, a major rebrand amongst other things. Despite most Practice Managers being amazing at multitasking, the next ‘golden nugget’ may not be helpful if introduced at the wrong time.
⚠️ Business Owners – just in case you are wondering! Implementing your own idea without involving the Practice Manager may make things worse rather than better.
3. Not sticking to what was agreed and not leading by example 💣
If you are a Practice Manager reading this, you can probably recall numerous examples of agreeing something with the boss or bosses only to find out that it’s not being followed by themselves as agreed. I’ve worked with numerous firms on improving their processes and spent hundreds of hours agreeing standard ways of working to ensure consistency of service excellence only to find the Business Owner still doing things their own way.
Leaders need to lead by example. A leader deviating from what was agreed is a signal to the team that everyone can do what they want. Both Business Owner and Practice Manager need to present a united front. To ensure that this is the case, I suggest implementing ‘Same page meetings’ advocated by EOS Implementer®. You can read more about these here 👉 https://www.mytractiontools.com/blog/visionary-integrator-get-on-same-page/.
4. Making changes to the process without communicating 🔇
Advisers are often tempted to tweak a process based on isolated experiences with individual clients. Assuming that much thought, consultation, training and testing had gone into the roll out of a specific way of working, it’s unlikely that making changes to the process based on one client meeting will be optimal. It’s best to encourage patience and an open dialogue with the person in charge of ops. The last thing that should be happening is bypassing the Practice Manager and asking the team to do something differently next time. This is a sure way of ending up with a confused team, processes that don’t reflect reality, and likely issues down the line.
By having the Business Owner communicating with the Practice Manager, you will ensure that optimal decisions are made and avoid undermining the person who is accountable for implementing the process in the first place.
5. Blurring the lines of accountability ➰ – ‘Oh, by the way, I just hired someone’
It can be hard to ‘let go’. This is probably why most Business Owners, especially those new to the entrepreneur/Practice Manager dynamic often blur the lines of accountability. This is of course suboptimal and can be very frustrating.
If you are expecting your Practice Manager to build a top team for example, it’s best to let them do what you hired them to do. In an extreme situation, I’ve seen a Business Owner hire ‘on a hunch’, not following any of the carefully crafted recruitment processes and then expecting the Practice Manager to deal with under-performance issues when they cropped up. Yet, had appropriate processes been followed a headache could have been avoided.
It’s important that you are clear on roles and accountabilities so that everyone can work to their strengths.
6. Abusing the Business Owner power’ 💪👑
While the final word always belongs to the Business Owner, after all it’s their ‘baby’ and they are the ones taking all the risks, it’s important not to abuse this power. Overriding the decisions of the Practice Manager without very valid reasons and when it suits the Business Owner isn’t a good policy and sooner or later will result in the breakup of what could be a ‘magical relationship’.
If you are a Business Owner, please remember that ‘managing a boss’ can be extremely difficult at times for Practice Managers or Operations Directors, especially for those who aren’t shareholders or partners in the business. It’s often more difficult than managing a large team. It’s a very lonely role and there is no ability to discuss the challenges of ‘managing up’ without external support.
For any business to thrive, those in charge must be aligned and present a united front – pulling in the same direction. What makes a great entrepreneur is very different to what makes a brilliant Practice Manager. Both are critical for success, so it’s worth investing in this relationship and having regular meetings to address anything that gets in the way of these two critical individuals getting on the ‘same page’.
If you are a member of our Master Practitioners Club, here are some of the relevant resources you can find in our library:
- How to succeed in the role of a Practice Manager & beyond with Dominika Sieradzka
- Improving Your Execution Skills with Brett Davidson of FP Advance
- Decision making & how to get your ideas across with Dominika Sieradzka
- Effective Leadership with Dominika Sieradzka
If you are not a member why not join us now 👉 https://rie.solutions/services/master-practitioners-club/.
Here is a quick exercise adapted from the book entitled ‘Dealing with Difficult People’ by Roy Lilley, aimed at helping you improve your interactions with others.
Keep track of the number of times you say the following in any one week:
- Great work
- Thank you for xxx
- Apologies, it’s my fault
- What do you think about xxx?
- How do you feel about xxx?
- Would you mind xxx?
Reflect on the patterns you see and the impact that these are likely to have on your relationships.