Like many entrepreneurs who take the plunge and start their own business, I didn’t have a lot of formal management training. My style has always been to go with my instincts and work with great people. That’s not to say that some tips at the beginning of my corporate life wouldn’t have been useful!
I’ve put together six lessons to help all entrepreneurs and business leaders to refine their style.
- Decide on your company culture and write it down
Whether you start out alone, with a team or take on staff further down the line, it’s always a good idea to begin the way you mean to go on. When you work out your branding, company name and direction, you should also sit down and physically work out the company culture you want from your business.
Have a discussion about personal and company values. Brainstorm ideas and merge your values with your business strategy – get input from every member of your team if that’s possible. If you’re leading a large number of employees or partners, gather team representatives around you and have the discussion.
When you’ve worked out your company’s values, write them down. Brand them up if you can. Design your internal and external communications around them and always make sure everyone works by these values.
This will mean constant appraisals, whether top down, bottom up or peer reviewed. Consider a weekly meeting to check in with employees and see whether the values are being lived. Make it clear by your behaviour how you want to see your employees work. This will translate to your customers and help you create a company culture that will last.
- Get your employees’ input along the way
Utilise all the talents in your team. Don’t just delegate tasks or make all decisions yourself. By respecting your employees enough to ask for their feedback, thoughts, ideas and insights you’ll be surprised how much can be achieved.
All leaders struggle sometimes with decisions or tasks that have to be done, and the input of your staff can be invaluable with breaking through challenges. Not only will they often have ideas from new perspectives, but you’ll also be able to identify their strengths and weaknesses which will help you develop them as business experts in their own right. This will pay off for your business in the long term, whether they stay and continue to use their skills, or move to a different company and provide networking opportunities.
- Celebrate and analyse progress along with your team
As leader, one of the most important jobs you have is to bring out the best in all of your team members. All employees, no matter their experience or job title, want to feel part of the whole. People need to know when they are progressing towards key objectives and when they might need more guidance. You need to help them see this progress.
How you do this is up to you – it could be by highlighting achievements in regular meetings or having one on one meetings with staff. The very best leaders will always be aware of the behaviours of their employees and be able to highlight those that are working and help people progress in the way that works for the company.
- Be clear with your expectations
One of the most damaging causes of relationship breakdowns within a business is a lack of clarity. Being clear about expectations, goals and objectives is invaluable when it comes to forming a cohesive team environment.
Communicating clearly is the basis of this. Being able to do this is a key leadership skill that can be learned. Set out the process of review clearly up front as well. Will you be holding weekly or monthly progress meetings? Do you want email updates or face to face? Or will you review at the end of each project?
I find, when delegating responsibilities to team members, it’s imperative to follow up in some pre-agreed way. Closing the loop is important when it comes to making sure employees are working in the way you want them to, and making sure that communication channels between yourself and team members are effective and useful.
- Watch the language you use when communicating with your team
Rather than using words such as “You’re wrong…” and “It’s disappointing to see…”, focus on the clear intentions behind the employee’s actions. Rarely do team members plan to let you down or make an error.
By trusting the fact that they likely did what they thought best, you can turn a mistake into a learning exercise. Take away any implication of accusation and use phrases that encourage open communication. Use words like ‘learning’, ‘making progress’, ‘what do you think we should do next?’.
These phrases are likely to encourage growth in your employee, as well as loyalty. Being talked to, listened to and contributing towards rectifying any mistakes can go a long way to forging team loyalty.
- Communicate in an ‘adult’ way sooner rather than later
Every leader is going to come up against employees acting in ways that they don’t like. When a staff member does something that really has to be addressed, the best way is to meet with them as quickly as possible and address it.
If unsuitable behaviour has been witnessed then talking directly with the employee and asking clearly, calmly and directly about it will bear fruit. This could be an apology and an explanation. Or it could be that you are better able to assess whether this staff member is a useful member of your team.
Follow these leadership lessons and you’ll be on your way to strengthening your ability to run a successful business.
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