Why your team needs tough love

When business owners start out, they often don’t have sufficient experience of managing a team. And any experience they do have is usually from a larger or even corporate business where the people dynamics, challenges and rules of engagement are vastly different.

Some small business owners therefore feel that they need to ‘mother’ their first employees to ensure they are protected, they have a perfect environment to perform in and therefore are retained and deliver results.  It’s easier right?

But in my experience, not showing tough love can and often does backfire.

In the world of leadership and team dynamics, the nurturing, caring approach often touted as ‘mothering’ might not always be the most effective.  While kindness, support, and empathy are crucial in any work environment, there’s a compelling case for integrating tough love into team dynamics.

Here are my views why your team needs tough love:

  1. Growth through challenges: Teams thrive better when they’re challenged. Tough love pushes individuals out of their comfort zones, encouraging them to confront obstacles head-on. It’s not about being harsh but about fostering resilience and a growth mindset and one where they are expected to step up and deliver.
  2. Accountability and ownership: ‘Mothering’ can inadvertently lead to high dependency. On the contrary, tough love promotes accountability.  Team members take ownership of their responsibilities, driving them to excel without constant hand-holding rather than knowing that there is somebody there to comfort, support and often protect them.
  3. Honest communication: While nurturing tends to focus on positive reinforcement, tough love brings honesty to the forefront. Constructive criticism, delivered with empathy, helps identify areas for improvement, fostering a culture of open communication. ‘Mothering’ often stifles open and honest communication.
  4. Building resilience: Adversity is inevitable in any workplace, especially when growing an SME. Tough love equips teams with the resilience needed to navigate challenges, bounce back from setbacks, and adapt to change effectively. ‘Mothering’ creates an environment where the reliance on the leader is too high and the team cannot be left to deliver.
  5. Encouraging initiative: ‘Mothering’ might inadvertently discourage initiative by creating an environment where decisions are made for individuals. Tough love, on the other hand, empowers team members to take the initiative and make informed choices and decisions.

In my experience ‘mothering’ teaches little, and often a lack of respect comes from the employee and resentment from the business owner.  What seemed like a great idea to generate harmony, retention and a great team, can backfire.

Think about this in terms of the kids at home.  If you clear the dishes, make the beds and tidy up after your kids who are old enough to do it themselves (because it’s easier, quicker or you don’t want to give them tough love) then you will be doing that for a very long time.

Tough love doesn’t mean abandoning team support or empathy.  It’s about finding a balance that fosters growth, drives accountability, and resilience within your team.

By embracing this approach, leaders can create an environment where challenges are seen as opportunities and where team members flourish both individually and collectively.

If you are ‘mothering’ your team, it will stifle their personal growth and ambitions, stifle your business growth and stop you from stepping away from running the business for fear that things will collapse in your absence.

Tough love, by Tendo

Every client I work with develops a clear team development strategy to transition them from the status quo to a future team that allows them to step away from the business.  We often call this the Dream Team.

The tough love and accountability I offer as a Business Mentor often means this is cascaded down to the team and those that have been ‘mothered’ start to be challenged to step up, stand alone and deliver. Mostly they step up, sometimes they decide their career should be elsewhere.

Do you recognise these character traits and the consequences?  What is stopping you delivering tough love?

Isn’t it time you had a team that delivered results, allowed you to step away from running the business 24/7 and who respect you as a leader?

If anything in this blog has resonated with you, or you want to discuss tough love within your business, book a 30 minute Discovery Call with me.

Gary King Tendo Business Mentor in Leeds Why your team needs tough love