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7 Questions with Nicola Kleinmann
7 Questions with Nicola Kleinmann
Name: Nicola Kleinmann
Current title: Co-Founder
Current organisation: Your People Associates Ltd
HR and Talent professional with over 20 years experience working with SMEs, startups and scaleups shaping out their people strategy and finding great hires.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
The thing that can often be the most challenging is juggling all the different things that you have to do every day. Not having a finance department or an IT department to just call on if there's a problem for example. You really need to be able to flex and wear different hats and this can sometimes be hard to know what to prioritise. Being consciously aware of what you are good at and what to outsource is really important so that you do not burn out and you are able to play to your strengths.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have previously had a business and I knew that this was something I wanted to do again. People sometimes see it as an easy option and will tell you that you are lucky to have your own business but for me it takes a hell of a lot of drive, determination and foresight to keep going... especially in 2020!
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My work days are currently very busy as we are so new into the business so packing in as much as I can and being as organised as possible is key.
I try to wake up around 7.30am and grab a cuppa and go through emails, social media and write my to do list.
We then have a team standup every morning at 10am. This is a good way to set the intention for the day with the team and update from the day before - we try to share and collaborate as much as possible.
The rest of the day is a mix of client meetings, writing proposals, doing the work and networking and sales. It is back to back most days but I try to get a walk if I can!
In the evening I pick up again with social media and see what opportunities there are.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I think I have learned over the years to try and trust as much as possible and allow people to manage their own time and measure output.
Someone also once told me to do 'what only you can do' - this was good advice and I try to remind myself of it regularly.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I really enjoyed reading 'What got you here won't get you there' - not a leadership book as such but I think a good lesson in showing us that we all need to be agile, open to change, willing to step outside of ourselves, challenge the norm, look to the external world more for answers and be prepared to pivot when we need to. The job is basically never done when you have a business it is all just a work in progress.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
In a small business it is good if you can find people that can flex in their roles and are willing to pick up duties that might need doing rather than having people in rigid roles and strict job specs. We are a start up so mucking in and getting the job done is vital.
Giving people a sense of ownership and empowerment is really important and I prefer a flat structure where people can contribute where possible but with solid direction. It's important everyone knows where you are trying to get to.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
I think I have learned lessons in the past from owning a business, working in other companies and seeing best practice (along with other less appealing ones!).
Being inspired by the workplace culture of a client I did a contract role for really opened my eyes to getting people alongside you and treating them with respect and openness. This particular company had a policy where they hired people with active hobbies or ones they were really passionate about. They allowed them to share and celebrate these - it was good as it showed that they respected a work life balance but they also believed that these kinds of people brought that passion and energy, focus and drive to the workplace too. It seemed to work for them and they sold for millions after just 7 years in business. I was in awe of that.