The Challenges of Leading a Small Team (& How to Fix Them)

May 5, 2021 Sarah Dameron

Manager Addressing the Challenges of leading a Small Team

Imagine you’re a manager of a small accounting team. Although leading a small team means fewer people to manage and less office politics, you’ll likely be facing some difficulties unique to small accounting teams. Whether you’re lacking time, tools or talent (or any other number of issues), leading a small team can include some big challenges.

As a CFO or Controller, this dynamic can be especially taxing and often, leaders find themselves playing defense rather than leading. A manager plays a vital part in a team’s overall success, so how can managers remedy problems within their team while also balancing team morale? Read on to see how managers can tackle the challenges leading a small team in today’s finance function.

Challenge #1 of Leading a Small Team: Limited Resources

Overcoming the Resource Hurdle

Hr Paperwork and Small team resources

There’s nothing more frustrating to a leader than having to work in the constraints of a small budget, or worse, only being able to hire a handful of people to juggle multiple projects. There are two ways to overcome these problems: prioritize projects or outsource them.

  • Prioritize projects by figuring out what projects you can do with the resources you have on hand. Next, determine the deadlines. The sooner a project is due, the more precedence that project has over others in the pipeline. Your AP Specialist needs to reconcile batches before the end of the day, but you need her to work on updating the general ledger. Which task has more urgency? Prioritizing these non-value-added tasks for your team can help, but often for a small team accounting leader like yourself, there are only so many team members to check off the long list of to-dos. This is where outside help can come in handy.

  • Outsource projects by partnering with a Virtual Accounting Support provider. A small team means either employees will have to wear multiple hats or it’s time to re-evaluate where you allocate your budget. Why not give your team members the work they want to do and outsource the rest, saving them time and getting through those tasks faster? Although choosing an outsourced accounting partner will take a bit of time on the front-end, soon you will be able to manage that lack of resources with ease as work is delivered to you day-in and day-out. Another benefit? Banishing burnout—which leads us to challenge number two.

Read More: Top Challenges of Today’s CFO: How FAO Turns the Tide

Challenge #2 of Leading a Small Team: Increased Workload

Prevent Burnout Within Team Members

Team member using computer ant tablet and feeling burnout

So, you’ve saved money by keeping your team small. But, a small team means that some members will wear many hats. Whether that’s a team of two or a team of five, how will your employees keep abreast of projects? According to a survey done by Asana, 82 percent of respondents say they are overworked. So how can small-team leaders address this challenge?

  • Cross-train members of your team. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that small teams require an all-hands-on deck approach to completing projects. To increase productivity and maintain employee engagement and satisfaction, cross-train your employees across a wide-range of skills. For example, one employee on your team may take on the role of both a AP and AR Specialist to help save on talent costs. And while this isn’t always ideal, having a well-versed employee who can jump on multiple accounting tasks will always be a win-win for any leader of a small team.

  • Invest in Project Management Tools. According to research done by Project.co, 96 percent of people surveyed feel that having a list of tasks makes them more efficient and productive. To succeed, managers should budget for project management tools that allow employees to manage day-to-day tasks and plan for future projects. This is especially important as tasks start to take over productivity. And whether you’re planning to outsource or not, ensuring that your in-house team is on-point with the tasks they have on their plates will ease your mind and overall allow everything to run that much smoother.

Read More: Time Management Tips and Tricks

Challenge #3 of Leading a Small Team: Diverse Personalities

Listen to Your Team Members

Manager of small team listening to members

People have different work styles and preferences. Some prefer getting started on projects immediately, others prefer waiting until the last minute. Personality conflicts between team members do exist. If left unchecked, the whole team suffers, and productivity drastically decreases. 23 percent of survey respondents report a negative workplace culture, according to a recent survey done by Skye Learning. A few ways to combat this issue are:

  • Hire people who will foster a positive work environment. Investing in your team will never lose value. In fact, 91 percent of managers in the U.S. surveyed by Indeed say a candidate’s alignment with the company’s culture is equal to or more important than skills and experience. It’s not just the members of the team that need to boost positivity to increase team cohesiveness, however. Company culture starts at the top – with the leaders themselves. Rewarding team member success and regular recognition for the boss can go a long way in maintaining the dynamic of a small team.

  • Schedule 1:1 Meetings. Regular planning and review meetings go a long way. A good leader blocks out time for each of their employees in order to listen to concerns, answer questions, and create a plan of action going forward. Be sure to listen for any conflicts among team members as this will have to be addressed right away to create a productive team working environment.

Read More: Lowering Attrition: The Top 5 Elements of Employee Retention

Success of a Small Team - Overcoming the Challenges

Managing a small team comes with its own set of challenges. Whether it’s limited resources, an increased workload, or differing personalities, you can overcome these challenges in order to keep up team morale. Once you’ve progressed past these concerns, you’ll notice an increase in team productivity and engagement, and it’ll be easier to reduce turnover.

Here’s the alternative answer to overcoming the challenges of leading a small team: Partner with a virtual accounting support provider. At Personiv, we’ve been working with clients for over 35 years to help organizations find, hire, and retain the right talent—and we can do it for you, too.

Get in touch today to learn more about what virtual accounting means for you as a manager.

Previous Article
Mastering the Budget Cycle
Mastering the Budget Cycle

Mastering the budget cycle is critical for any company, large or small, particularly in a world that's chan...

Next Article
Strategic Investment in Accounting
Strategic Investment in Accounting

Change is constant, and it’s tough to decide where the energy in your business is best spent. That’s why we...