You will find literature on leadership in hundreds of books and thousands of articles online, but you have to dissect all the information to enable you to become a good leader and to get the best out of your people.
Leadership is said to be the Achilles heel of many business owners. They don’t fully understand it, they dislike doing it or they are incompetent at it. Therefore, it makes it virtually impossible to create a productive, collaborative work environment, or in truth expand their business. If you are a small business owner, getting leadership training and working hard to improve your leadership skills will enhance your business growth.
There are 12 main leadership criteria that you should always keep in mind and continue to work on, these are necessary, everyday behaviours, not personality characteristics. Every person’s leadership style will be slightly different, influenced by their personality type, and the behaviours enumerated here are independent of your personality type. In general, a good leader is confident, believe that they can be an effective leader and like everything in life, practice and dedication are what it takes to be successful at it.
Firstly, what is leadership? It is defined as the ability to persuade a person to do what you ask, not out of fear but respect for you. It’s establishing a direction, and forming the behaviours of a person or team to achieve desired results or goals. Leaders get results because people admire, believe and are motivated by them.
Releasing the potential in your people that allows them to take ownership and responsibility is one of the main results of effective leadership. This is different from “management” because management entails directing things, not individuals. Managers mainly realise outcomes due to their position of power or authority, but this does not automatically mean managers are effective leaders.
1. Be Accessible or Approachable
What employees desire from their leader is to be valued, connected and respected. Those team members will surely make more effort and remain with their leader longer.
Depending on their degree of talent, employees must be empowered to allow them to work at their best. If you’ve hired people with the right skill sets to carry out a task, micromanaging is not an effective leadership style. They dislike it because it doesn’t permit them to completely utilise their talents and initiative, and it stifles accountability and ownership. Being approachable, supportive and giving people sufficient space but specific guidelines is the key. When approached, give them your complete attention and don’t ignore them. Listen attentively and utilise strong motivational words or succinct phrases of inspiration such as “good job”, “get to it, I believe you”, and “I love your work”.
You have to be careful in managing your responses so you’re not resolving things or seeking solutions for your people. The chances are, if you do this, they will be constantly relying on you instead of working on their own to find solutions, and you will experience an never-ending stream of interruptions. Your ability to listen is vital. Listen and focus on understanding, not responding. Make sure that you don’t sound rushed or annoyed, or reject their concern or idea because that is not being approachable.
Be visible, always be approachable and consistent by learning how to manage your environment. Use strategies such as allocating certain time of the day to perform a walk around to various parts of the business, or setting aside an “open hour” for, say a couple of hours daily. Implement whatever is effective for you and the people who work for you.
2. Communicate Clear Expectations
There are three main reasons why people get upset. These are:
- Undelivered communication – there is something important that you want to say but were not able to, or you were howled down;
- Thwarted intention – you have set your mind to say something or do something in a particular manner, but were not permitted to;
- Unfulfilled expectation – you expect that someone is going to do a task to fulfil the outcome you want, but they fail to do it or do it badly.
The last one is significant because it aims at the core of performance management.
Effective leaders are always firm and calm when conveying clear expectations and limits for their team members to work within. These expectations are mainly centred on duties and tasks to be carried out, quality of goods or services, and culture.
Some team members “get lost” if leaders don’t communicate daily or weekly with them. Don’t expect your people to carry out a task if you don’t communicate your expectations clearly and consistently. You will be less upset or cranky if you are consistent in communicating your expectations.
Using the good old position description as your guide can help you in this situation. However, by modifying the structure to a table system so that every task on the position description has a parallel segment titled “what success looks like.” You can measure this as either qualitative like “all stock lines and patterns easily located within their place” or quantifiable like “20 new business appointments monthly.”
3. Hold Team Members Accountable
Some people can experience difficulty with this area, because of their personality type. For example, a business owner with a “South” personality is people centred, non-assertive, sympathetic and draws back from possible disagreement. This is their normal state. It is neither right nor wrong, it’s just who they are. “Southies” can have a hard time leading their people who have a “North” personality, who are fast-paced, assertive, confident, decisive, impatient and controlling.
If you find yourself in the “South” personality, you probably have to put more effort with this behaviour as it’s not likely to come instinctively to you. But it is essential. Never forget that people are hired to carry out certain responsibilities and be an asset to the business, not just to pick up a salary. It’s your duty as the leader to hold your people responsible for the briefs they are expected to carry out, and for the tasks they’ve been asked to do. If you fail to do so, you are fundamentally conveying that they can do whatever they like, which can result in long term frustration and stress to employers.
Hold your people accountable firmly, calmly and privately. Provide them with regular performance feedback. Utilise the new position description system you have devised to check the outcomes or desired behaviour (what success looks like). Criticising them should also be avoided, but convey your expectations again if necessary, the effects of persistent under performance.
In closing, rate yourself using the three leadership behaviours listed above and determine an improvement action for all that you can act on immediately to improve your leadership skill.
For Part 2, stay tuned for a discussion on the concepts of “setting the tone”, “walking the talk’ and “fairness”.
If you are considering outsourcing your bookkeeping, accounting and other business-related processes, but still allow you to make the big decisions and remain in control, contact PJS Accountants. We have has over 30 years experience with local Redlands businesses. Our team will be at your disposal, always ready to receive your calls and provide services, to help you to stay in charge of all aspects of your business. Call us for enquiries on how PJS Accountants can help you improve your business.