What do first time buyers have in common with the modern SME?

House keys on desk, first time buyersAs any business owner knows all too well, there’s never a one-size-fits all approach when it comes to managing a team. But, once mastered, such ‘people management’ skills can come into play in all manner of scenarios.

The beauty of this transferable ‘know-how’ is that you never stop honing the perfect approach – and with every new encounter, you become a better manager, colleague, friend and family member. Lorna Stellakis, MD of IT support firm Q2Q, takes a look at this concept in practice.

To set the scene, it’s been an interesting time in the Stellakis household recently. All three of our ‘young adults’ are in various stages of buying their first homes, which is incredibly exciting, a little challenging, and incredibly humbling – in equal measure!

As a blended family, there is quite a broad range of personalities at play, thus making for some very interesting, middle-of-a-pandemic, first-time-buyer experiences across the board – or dining room table, truth be told. And, while you might wonder what this has to do with a leadership blog, I ask you to humour me a little…

The eldest is buying with his girlfriend, a long way from home and – touch wood – it’s been straightforward so far. They’ve managed most of the process independently, with just the occasional phone call for some advice, to gain an understanding of the terminology, or gentle reassurance they are making the right decisions.

Our middle child, meanwhile, is buying with her boyfriend, but has encountered some additional complications that have been challenging – and at times very stressful. However, she has always been extremely resourceful and during this time she’s demonstrated the tenacity to find a way around every problem.

Finally, the youngest is buying on her own and has asked for a lot more ‘hands-on’ support throughout her journey. She’s still in the early stages but is asking a lot of questions and wanting clarification on all terminology and processes already – keen to be thorough in every aspect.

She has spent days pondering the pros and cons of every decision and sought reassurance at various stages of the process. I’ve sat on calls with the mortgage advisor, emailed her solicitor, and translated almost every communication she’s had thus far.

Now, you would be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that the youngest is maybe not as confident or ‘clued-up’ as the elder two, but I’d argue quite the opposite. In truth, she’s simply more hesitant when it comes to risk-taking, and wants to ensure she understands everything fully – prior to committing.

As a parent, adjusting my advisory approach to each child – albeit while explaining the same thing three times – has been an interesting challenge, and one which felt akin to adapting my leadership style back at Q2Q HQ.

When it comes to acting as a mentor, advisor, or simply a parent, it’s important to invest time into understanding how individuals prefer to be managed or helped, and find the right balance of managing vs empowering in order to elicit the best performance from each person.

Some will prefer a structured framework with clear guidelines and continuous support, others will need the overview and a couple of gentle nudges along the way, while a handful might find any kind of direction restricting and prefer a top-level outline of the desired outcome before being left to work out the details for themselves. Much like our three children.

By understanding what approach works best, and for whom, as leaders, we’re then in the strongest position to elicit the very best performance from those around us. And that’s something I’ve always been keen to impress upon the Q2Q family.

That approach is something we like to call ‘technical empathy’.

Rather than looking for a company-wide IT support approach, the Q2Q team is always striving to provide a personalised service for each of our clients’ employees. Naturally, some will be more tech savvy than others, meaning we can include technical data when presenting solutions to an issue, while others simply want the problem to go away – and only need to know that it’s fixed.

It’s our job to find the right balance, get to know the nuances of the teams we work with, and deliver a service which addresses all the factors at play – and for support-led firms like ours, that concept should always be front-and-centre.

In all cases, we make it our mission not only to ‘fix’ problems, but also to educate whenever possible, in order to empower teams to recognise any recurring issues and work with us to deliver basic ‘how to’ guides for common, user-related problems.

Of course, this approach must be sensitive to the individuals because, for many, the world of tech is something they don’t want – or need – to understand in order to do their job. It simply needs to work.

That’s exactly why we work hard behind the scenes to hone those technical empathy skills – using yours truly as the ‘test dummy’ for all communications and guides. As the resident technophobe, my input ensures users are given exactly the right level of support to fix their problem – and makes them feel as though they’ve learned something too!

While the ‘nuts and bolts’ of IT might not be my strong point, leadership and team motivation is something I know and love. So, if you’re a leader wondering if your communication style could do with a shake-up, or considering how to get the most out of your teams post-lockdown, I’d be more than happy to jump on a video call to share ideas and inspiration. Get in touch to set up a time!

About the author

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITMy role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team are heading, setting the overall business strategy and financial budgeting. Whilst always having been involved with systems implementation throughout my career, I have an operational background and no specific IT experience. However, if anything, I believe this makes me more qualified to ensure the team deliver great service, drawing from my operations experience, and having been on the wrong side of poor IT support in the past. I can relate to how crippling this can be to a business, making it paramount that we ensure that IT issues are as invisible as possible, leaving the customers to get on with running their businesses smoothly.


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