Leadership Doesn't Come Naturally To Everybody (But It's Never Too Late to Learn)
The phrase "natural leader" can be a little intimidating for people who question their ability to direct a team. As a business owner, you've probably thought about leadership often, including ways to help your team achieve more and how to mentor employees with potential into becoming managers that others look up to, emulate, and respect.
Fortunately, leadership isn't a born-in trait that's exclusive to only a charismatic few. Leaders set the tone for a business no matter how large or small, and the best ones understand how to implement these tips with their own leadership style.
Lead Through Listening
As a leader, you're the person that others turn to when they have a question, a concern about the business, or a problem with a customer or product. You can't solve problems effectively unless you fully understand them, so attentive listening is the best first step. Ask open-ended questions, and re-state what the other person is saying to ensure that you fully understand.
To practice active listening, remember to wait before speaking, and resist the urge to finish someone else's sentences. This communicates to the other person that what they're saying has value and that you care about their input.
Imagine the directions to assembling a piece of IKEA furniture. The company certainly isn't known for clear communication! Likewise, if the directions that you give your team aren't clear and specific, you'll either have a lot of questions and confusion or end up with a result that's far away from what you needed.
When communicating, be specific, and show, not just tell, what you mean. Include an example of what a finished product should be, or communicate with your team what the desired outcome is. For example, if you want to raise customer satisfaction survey scores, directions can include:
- Smile and greet every customer
- Offer to demonstrate a product
- Thank them by name, by reading their credit card or loyalty card information
- Asking how their experience was
- Inviting them to fill out a customer survey, if the customer gave a compliment
As a business owner, you need to be working on your business, not in your business. You hired your team because of their skills and abilities, so step back and allow them to shine in their own way, whether it's developing their own relationships with regular clients or taking the initiative to improve the overall appearance of your goods in stock. Smart delegation creates a feeling of pride and ownership in their job for many employees.
Set a Respectful Example
You earn respect by treating others with respect. While it may be tempting to say "because I'm the boss, that's why," or dismiss what you perceive as an insignificant problem out of hand, when you brush off your employees, or worse, treat them poorly, with a raised voice or snappy words, you're creating an atmosphere of fear and distrust, neither of which inspire people to follow you as a leader.
These tips are good ones not just for developing your leadership skills, but also for life. Active listening, clear communication of expectations, and treating others with respect don't just make you a great leader, it can also improve your relationships outside of work, including those within your local business community and your fellow Chamber members.