“You must be Lorna! Please tell me you know something about how to lead! Leaders must really be born…because I am no leader and I have made a complete mess of my business! And…
“Whoa! Hold up Buddy! Good Morning…you must be Mike!” I offered brightly.
I actually hesitated before I offered him my hand because he looked as if he would yank it straight from my shoulder, albeit unintentionally.
He was oozing “leadership” frustration from way across the room.
“What if I were to tell you that small business leaders just like you are indeed born?” I asked him with a smile, as I watched the surprise on his face.
Caught you by surprise too, right?
Now before you jump down my throat or “eat me raw” as we say in my country, hear me out.
Are leaders born knowing how to lead?
As leadership goes, many leaders are “born”.
We are born out of the need to continuously motivate a group of diverse individuals to operate as a high-performing team. We want them to perform like a practiced orchestra which will achieve our world-changing vision.
For this to happen, you have first to “give birth” to the leader in you. The earlier the better.
Then you must carefully nurture and grow this “newborn” leader in such a way that very soon, you know how to lead like a boss.
It is your skillful leadership that unleashes the imagination and resourcefulness of your team and leads to the innovation that you so deeply crave.
It is knowing how to lead your team that gives birth to new ideas, new solutions and new cures.
I hope by now I have convinced you that small business leaders are born.
It follows then, that to keep your small business afloat and to grow it rapidly, you need to learn how to lead teams.
And this is where it gets interesting…
You have some idea that to be an effective leader, you need to understand the individuals within the team.
But you can’t stop there. It is critical to your success as a leader that you also grasp the concept of the “nature of teams.”
What is “the nature of teams”?
In order to help you understand the nature of teams, I want to refer to Kevin Eikenberry’s concept of teams. Let me say right here, I support his view whole-heartedly.
He advances the view that there are basically two types of teams – a basketball (hockey, football, netball) team and a track and field team.
The “basketball” team operates as a cohesive unit. The players depend on each other, acutely aware that goals are reached and success is achieved only when they are working together in unison.
This means that regardless of the position a member holds in that team, its success happens faster and better, when they perform their role as required.
The “track and field” team on the other hand, while representing the same club or organisation is made up of high-performing individuals.
Therefore, if enough of the team members perform at a high level, the team will win. BUT…the actions of the “sprinter” is not dependent on those of the “high jumper” and neither is hers dependent on those of the “cyclist.”
What does all this mean for how you lead?
Well, both types of teams can exist in your small business at the same time…and that’s okay.
As the leader, you have to motivate ALL your employees to constantly work to achieve the mission.
This means, you have to become your own leadership detective and find out which type of team, or even if both, exist in your business. And then you have to decide how to lead each team…towards the common goal.
The main issue with that is, having recognised that you do have both types teams, you are now doubtful that you have the leadership skills to ensure the success of your business.
So you find yourself wondering…
Is there a set of leadership strategies I can use for both types of team?
Will these strategies produce the results I want for my small business?
And will they help me to lead my “team” like a boss?
Fortunately, there are lots of strategies you can use.
A beginner’s pack of leadership strategies for you
To kickstart your boss leadership, what I have done is selected just 5 of the numerous available leadership strategies.
Why these five?
First of all they work because they are focused on you, the leader. Also, they are easy to implement so you can begin using them right away. And best of all, they will produce good results for you, regardless of the type of team you’re leading.
1. Become a supportive and knowledgeable team leader
Right alongside learning how to hire right you soon realise that leadership is a two-way street.
In other words, while you’re looking to get things done through people, these same people are looking to you for guidance and support.
Yes, you do have the technical knowledge of their job to guide them to do their job efficiently and effectively.
But now you have to go further and be willing to provide the emotional support and inspiration that will motivate them to give their very best effort to your business. That’s how you complete the team building circle.
A word of caution here: You have to be willing to give that support even when they mess up.
When you do, begin by acknowledging what went wrong. Then decide with the team member how to fix it and establish expected behaviour for the future.
When you take this approach you reduce turnover, you improve productivity and you build incredible loyalty.
2. Set clearly defined goals, roles, and responsibilities
You need to ensure that every team member knows what s/he is supposed to accomplish and how this fits in with what other team members are doing.
You should make this the standard, regardless of the type(s) of team which exist in your business. Nothing creates more confusion in your business and migraines for you, the leader, than when people are not sure of their roles.
When you set clearly defined goals, roles, and responsibilities, you set yourself up to manage the many egos that will be present in any team.
But before you do any of the above, you first have to be very clear about your business goals or vision. Why? Because when you are, you can give your team a better understanding of where their roles fit in. This makes them more willing to accept the attached responsibilities.
You also have to be clear about the context in which you are leading. You just can’t focus on the people you are leading without paying attention to the unique set of circumstances that impact your business.
3. Give team members decision-making authority
If you want to rapidly scale your business, you have to make sure that decisions can be made closest to where problems occur.
Effective decision-making is also important to your business flexibility. Being agile or flexible in business is how you respond quickly to your customers needs and how you compete.
When you know how to lead effectively, it is easy for you to ensure that your team members constantly make meaningful decisions.
How do you do this?
But more importantly you have to give them the authority to make decisions and and create a culture of safety for them to do so. This might be difficult at first, especially if you’re fond of using any of those rules authentic leaders should avoid.
Moreover, when you give people ownership over what they are doing, and hold them accountable, they perform so much better and make your job as a leader so much easier.
4. Create a culture of open and honest communication
One of the biggest mistakes that we make as small business owners, is to withhold important information about the business from our employees. And them we complain about their lack of commitment.
Having a culture of open and honest communication has many benefits. For example, everyone makes decisions with the best available information, you resolve conflict easily and team building is less frustrating.
The key feature in such a culture is to allow your team to feedback to you on your performance, without fear of being punished. When you do, you will set yourself apart as a “boss leader.”
You also need to learn how to use assertiveness skills to express yourself effectively in any situation.
In this post about effective communication in the workplace, I discuss 10 ways you can have an effective open and honest communication environment. Be sure to read it.
5. Recognize and reward team members for reaching goals
Whether you’re leading a “football” team or an “athletic” one, the members want to be recognised and rewarded for their efforts in helping you achieve your goals.
Yes, you pay them a decent wage or salary. But very often they go beyond requirements to meet a deadline or save you money. You should not take these efforts for granted.
You should constantly remind your team that their efforts are valued and appreciated.
What better way to guarantee this than to give your team performance-based recognition and rewards?
There are several employee recognition programs which you can modify to suit your needs. Or working with your team, you can come up with your own.
Remember, these do not always have to be about money but they have to be about showing that you understand their needs and that you care.
For example, I have seen things like “personal days” which are not part of statutory holidays, work wonders for camaraderie and productivity in several small businesses.
How to lead? Now it’s over to you…
Lord knows I know how Small Business Owners struggle with leadership.
I also know that a big part of that problem is your persistent internal beliefs that leadership is not important for small businesses.
That was the mindset that Mike (at the beginning of this post) came to me with. At the end of our meeting, he had a different view of his role as a leader. He had agreed to a coaching programme and I was happy that I had raised his expectations of himself.
So how am I doing with you?
I have exposed and explained for you the critical issue that stands in your way when you come to lead a team – understanding the nature of your team.
I’ve given you a “Starter Pack” of strategies which you can begin using to improve your skills.
Where am I going with all this?
You can no longer sit on the sidelines and hope that the problem fixes itself. You have to do something about your leadership and you have to do like right freaking now!
So look over the strategies again. Pick the one which you believe will give you the fastest results. Start working on it at once. Your success will be motivating for you and your team. Then work your way through the others.
Give it a try and let me know it worked for you. Will you?
To your leadership success…