Self management in the face of bad sales figures

Our Furniture Bank business has been growing and growing over the past year. Our turnover has over doubled, as has the number of people we are employing. We are saving more from landfill and providing more and more furniture for those through our low income, referral process.

However, June was a bad month. We had a 19% drop in revenue for no apparent reason. By the start of July the team were grouchy with each other, the atmosphere was low and this week we have had someone off ill every day of the week. Added to that (or perhaps unsurprisingly based on the mood and number of staff) July’s revenue growth has started off badly too.

In these moments we often ask if self management is a mistake. Perhaps the reason things are not going well are because we are too lax and not driving the business forward properly as leaders. Maybe we should fall into the model of command and control leadership. Maybe people aren’t able to self manage. I am not sure but here are some thoughts we are having as we reflect on the bad month and bad atmosphere this week:

  1. Self management is not the same as individuals having total autonomy. One of our mistakes in the past weeks is to let the team operate as individuals making their own decisions. In our team meetings this month we will be working on the need to be self managing teams . We need to be making decisions on the ground but not doing that on our own but instead making sure we properly consult other impacted team members. Team work is the key and developing teams that can self manage is the key to growth. We want every day innovation from the team not innovation from individuals.

  2. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. This is not a new idea but if we want a good atmosphere we need to work at building one. We have to keep working and worrying about culture as much as sales figures if we are to have a high functioning team. Self management only works when the team have a sense of purpose and togetherness.

  3. One months’ poor showing doesn’t undo 12 months of progress. Last month was disappointing as it was meant to be the first profitable month since we took on £30k of debt to finance new growth. The pressure of paying back the loan combined with low morale tempts me (Will) to want to change. However, my job is to be a non-anxious presence that holds the culture and coaches the leaders.

I guess the metaphor that comes to mind is the England Cricket Team. Since 2015 they have been the at the pinnacle of world cricket. However, 7 matches into the world cup people were worried that they weren’t going to qualify for the semi finals due to their failures in a couple of key games. People were questioning their methods and suggesting now things were getting tight they should change philosophy and approach. However, they stood firm to their convictions and won the two tough matches they needed to win and now are through and ready for the semis.

I feel our little next stage organisation is in a similar space. One bad result shouldn’t undo all the good work we have done over 12 months. We may not win the competition but we have come this far using our Teal philosophy, we may as well keep trying.