Expert Insights

The world has changed. Are your managers ready for growth?

With signs of global economic recovery, senior interim manager Matthew Warham argues that now’s the time for organisations to think about growth. More specifically, senior leaders need to look at their management and systems, and ask whether they have the right people in place to deliver.

While business has made many positive changes over the years, it is says Matthew, still all too common to find managers who rule their departments like personal fiefdoms, who keep their distance from their teams and who are preoccupied with their own success.

“These little kingdoms will not do to build recovery on,” says Matthew, who has held a number of non-executive directorships and interim senior management positions, as well as advisory roles at blue-chip companies. “They’re too fragile. They starve talent and reward obsequiousness. These types of managers use their people to prop up them up. Good people who have stuck with departments led by such managers in bad times will quickly move on as the job market loosens up.”

Although the signs of growth may be small, it’s vital for organisations to get in shape for growth now – or risk getting left behind.

Matthew adds: “Senior teams should take a cold look at their management structures and processes and ask: ‘are these the people and systems to deliver our plan for growth?’ Are our managers the collaborative people needed to help an organisation reconnect with its customers after period of cost-cutting?” He suggests several aspects leaders should consider:


What kind of climate are managers creating? Are their people encouraged to be innovative or discouraged from speaking up? Is real delegation and empowerment visible? Do people have a shared long-term vision and are they proud to be part of the team?


Are these box-ticking exercises or live, practical tools? Do managers use them interactively to develop their people and promote overachievers? Are they actively planning succession or building walls around themselves?


Good managers spread intelligence around and encourage others to do the same. Decisions are made in an open and visible way and good leaders share what they have learned from those above them. Poor ones return from board meetings with mystic smiles leaving behind confused, ill-informed and demotivated staff.

Internal reports

Do you suspect your senior managers are taking credit for the tireless work of their team? Or do you have great leaders who don’t just credit their people, but invite them into meetings as subject-matter experts?

And, of course, there are many other indicators of a ‘bad boss’, such as above average sickness rates and staff turnover.

Meanwhile, argues Matthew, there are leaders who are succeeding. “Their people find them accessible and approachable,” he says. “Whether passed over or promoted, they’re engaged in the development process. They frequently go the extra mile without being asked to. They’re clear on where they stand with their manager, and the manager is clear about what they want, but also concerned about how the team are doing. These are managers who admit to mistakes, who say ‘we’ and ‘you’ much more than ‘I’. And for those who think it’s about being ‘touchy-feely’ or making money, it’s a false choice. In my experience, these types of managers get results.”

Matthew says we’re living in a changed world from the one that crashed five years ago and now’s the time to make necessary changes to get in shape for the future. “It’s much easier to do this kind of change at this point of the economic cycle than when momentum is gathering pace much more quickly.

“Those at the top of an organisation can put in place the culture in which constructive behaviour can flourish. But it means investing in people, processes and teams and giving leaders the tools to do the job. As a CFO once said to a chief executive: ‘But what happens if we invest in our people and they leave us?’ The CEO replied: ‘What happens if we don’t and they stay?'”

Are your managers ready for growth?

  • With signs of recovery, now’s the time to examine management and structure.
  • Are your managers open, accessible, approachable and fostering an inspiring, inclusive environment?
  • Or do they rule by fear and are only concerned about their own personal success?
  • Are you investing in the right culture, processes and systems for managers to succeed?

Matthew Warham

Matthew Warham is a senior interim manager and non-executive director who helps organisations change and restructure to deliver measurable improvement. He has set up and later sold three highly successful direct marketing companies and has senior interim roles in a range of leading blue-chip companies.

Williams Bain

Williams Bain is an exclusive hybrid interim and change management provider. We’re trusted by some of the UK’s largest organisations to support the implementation of complex strategies that accelerate results and lead to definitive, positive and measurable change.