What it means to step up and lead
Would you like to attract and keep the best staff, have happy customers and a healthy bottom line? To achieve these things and more, the one thing you can’t avoid is showing good leadership.
As the owner of a small business, you set the goals that everyone strives toward. You also set the tone and the standards of what’s acceptable. In short, your business is a reflection of you. Great leaders create great businesses. Sloppy leaders create sloppy businesses.
In this article I’ll share some thoughts and personal reflections on what we can all do to be better business leaders.
When you look at the many different theories on great leadership they seem to boil down to the following six steps:
1. Make your expectations clear;
2. Train people in the skills they need;
3. Empower them to take initiative;
4. Encourage and motivate them when they need it;
5. Give them regular feedback on their performance; and
6. Get out of their way and let them do their job.
No doubt you have heard or read variations on this. Great leaders do these things and it reflects in their business results. If we know what we should do to be a great leader, why don’t we do it? The fact is reality gets in our way. As a small business owner the demands on our time are enormous. We need to be a product expert, accountant, human resources professional, sales person…the list is endless. And amongst all those demands, practicing the craft of leadership slips steadily down our ‘to do’ list.
Writing this article was an interesting self-reflection. I run a small business and understand how easy it is to get stuck in doing my work and not focusing on the team I lead. While I know the main point of my role is to lead my team I frequently get so busy that I lose perspective. So take this from someone who is also on the journey of trying to be a great leader.
Here are some observations of what I have seen work for other business owners and what works for me when I am in my zone.
Self-awareness is understanding what you do and why you do it. It also means understanding your style as a leader and how your behavior and decisions affect others. Here are some questions to test your selfawareness:
• What do you do well that adds value to the business?
• What do you struggle with?
• What bad habits do you have that negatively impact on others or the business?
• How can your talents be best applied?
• What tasks should you delegate to others in your team?
A useful way to get clarity on these questions is to sit quietly and reflect. Let your defenses drop and create a place to think clearly. A good friend or coach can also be useful - someone in your corner who will give you honest feedback, hold a mirror up to your behavior, let you talk issues out and test your thinking.
You are the role model
Culture is ‘the way we do things around here’. Where there is a great culture you will inevitably find a team motivated to do their best work and committed to the success of the business. As the leader of your business, the culture is set and maintained by you. If your team are negative, not following procedures, not taking good care of customers or watching the clock, then take a look at the example you are setting or what you are choosing to ignore. I have a local café I love visiting. The coffee is fantastic and the service always great. The owner introduces customers to each other as they wait in line to order, she connects with everyone and nothing is too much trouble. The owner took some time off over Christmas and I noticed her staff stepped straight into her shoes. They did everything she would do to make the experience great for their customers, they didn’t miss a beat. That’s culture in action. A great way to check your status as a role model is to think about the behaviors you want demonstrated in your business. Do you want an upbeat, proactive, clear thinking, customer focused team? Then list the kinds of behaviors you need to make that happen. Check yourself against that list. Are you setting the right example? Is your team clear on the behaviours you expect? Are you rewarding and recognising others for displaying these behaviours?
Lead with credibility
Credibility means being believable, dependable and worthy of people’s confidence. In other words; to earn people’s trust. If you have credibility people will follow your direction. This of course makes running a business so much easier. Ask yourself:
• Are your intentions good in your dealings with your team?
• Do you look out for their interests?
• Does your behaviour encourage respect?
• Are you direct and honest?
• Are you competent and do you give clear direction?
• Do you encourage your team to deliver on their potential?
Feeling the love
I was talking to a business owner recently who was struggling to gain respect from her team. As we chatted it became clear she had lost her passion for the business and was feeling burnt out. Her team felt it. She realised she couldn’t effectively lead her team while feeling like this. Her business was suffering, and she needed to make a decision if she was in or out. Would you look to someone for leadership who wasn’t passionate or enthusiastic about what they did?
If your team see you discouraged and negative, how will that influence them? This doesn’t mean being fake, but it does mean staying positive and solution focused in the face of challenges.
How do you feel about your business? Are you resentful of the time and energy it is sucking from you? Are you bitter because you are not getting the return you expected? If you are jaded it’s very difficult for you to create the excitement you need to have a thriving business.
So how do you keep the love alive? How do you regenerate yourself for the sake of your business? After working incredibly hard for 10 years to build up a business, a friend of mine has taken six months off and is travelling the world to get ideas and recharge. He recognised he was falling out of love with his business and needed a break. Obviously not all of us can afford six months off, but surely you can take a few days to reflect on why you bought the business and how you can get back to that inner motivation that excites you.
How would you like to work for you?
I had a good friend ask me how would I feel about working for me? It’s a great question. It certainly got me thinking about things from my team’s point of view.
Was I keeping them up to date on what they needed to know? Was I including them in the planning process and finding ways for them to share their ideas? What was I doing to get their commitment and buy-in? Was I open to doing things differently? And most importantly, was I encouraging the team to support each other and develop their judgment and problem solving skills. After all, in any sport, if the coach is the only leader in a team then they are in trouble. Writing this article I had a few self-reflective “oh whoopsie” moments because here are some things on the list I have not been doing, as my daily tasks consume me. So I don’t know about you but I am going to take a moment to think about how I can bring some of these ideas into my busy day.
Karli Furmage is CEO of The Franchise Relationships Institute, a research and training organisation that has been helping franchisors and franchisees create profitable partnerships for 24 years. To have Karli or one of her team talk at your next conference contact: