Most of us who've started our own businesses never had much in the way of formal management training. As a result, we've groped around in the dark, finding our own way to a leadership style that we use in our company.
Here are 6 lessons to help you refine your leadership style that will not only help you have more impact with and through your team, but will help you retain your top talent and deepen your connection with your team.
1. Write out on paper what you want your culture to be.
At my business coaching company, Maui Mastermind, we started with our company values and asked of each one at a time, "What would it look and feel like if our entire team was living this value?"
For example, one of our company values is, "We eat our own cooking." When we brainstormed out ways this would look if our entire team lived it we came up with things like:
• Our entire team would use our coaching app to fill out their weekly "Big Rock" Report every Friday or Monday morning.
• We'd regularly ask ourselves and each other, "What did we learn from this experience and how can we use what we learned to improve the company?"
• We'd systematize (we call it "UBS'ing") processes and functions as a standard way we do business.
• We'd measure our company success not just through the filter of growing our gross revenues and operating profits, but also by the increase of our "Owner Independence Index" (a metric we developed to help our business coaching clients measure and track their progress in reducing their company's reliance on them or any one key individual.)
The best part of doing this is that you make it behaviorally clear what you want you and your team to see people doing as they live your company values. This is a great way to help you intentionally create your company culture.
2. Don't just use your team to delegate and hand off tasks to, but show them the respect of asking them for their insights and leveraging them as a sounding board when you're struggling with a decision or need to think through an aspect of the business.
Not only will they have great feedback and input to share with you, but you'll be developing them as business people in their own right which can only help your company in the long run.
Plus, there is no better way to affirm a team member than by asking for her perspective and insights and authentically taking them seriously.
3. Help your team see progress.
One of your core jobs as a leader is to be a catalyst to bring out the best in your team. Well, any team wants to feel they're making positive progress towards their key objectives. Your job as a leader is to help them see this progress.
Whether you highlight victories at your next staff meeting, or send out a team update bi-weekly, or just congratulate an individual performer as you're walking through the office, the best leaders train themselves to spot the behaviors and progress they want to see more of. It is a powerful leadership habit to form.
4. Set clear expectations, and make the time to "inspect what you expect."
One of the most common causes of breakdowns in a business is fuzzy or unclear expectations at the handoff. You think you've asked them to do x, y, and z, but they feel you've asked for x and y. Making sure your handoff well is a key leadership skill.
Take an honest look at your past several handoffs. Did you later find that your team commonly didn't get all you expected them to do? Own this. And work to improve the clarity and precision with which you handoff in the future.
Also, agree on the "review process" you'll use. Do you expect them to send weekly or bi-weekly or monthly updates to you on progress? Will you have a series of short review meetings every two weeks, with a short email update due to you two business days before each update? Or will you simply review the final output after they have completed it?
In my experience, after poor or fuzzy handoffs, the next most common cause of a breakdown when delegating a responsibility to a team member is that the leader doesn't follow up in some agreed upon way to review the work and make sure it really was done in such a way that it met the criteria of success you originally agreed upon. Remember, you've got to close the delegation loop.
5. Eliminate inflammatory language with your team.
Imagine the impact of saying any of the following:
"I'm so disappointed in you..."
"How could you have..."
"You are careless..."
"What were you thinking..."
Instead, focus on the situation and trust their intentions. Try language like:
"I can see you thought that by doing x, that y would happen. What did you learn from the situation?"
"What do you now know to do next time?"
"What is our exposure here? What do you think we need to do to best clean up the situation?"
The former phrases were full of blame, accusation, and sting, while the later phrases are designed to help your staff member learn and grow from the situation.
6. When you need to, have your "adult conversations" right away.
There will be times in your business life when you a staff member behaves in a way that simply must be addressed. Or when a situation can't be ignored and must be dealt with. In our company we call these "adult conversations."
"Mark, we need to have an adult conversation about that email you sent out yesterday to Sylvia. How do you imagine Sylvia would have felt getting that email? In our company, we just don't send out emails like that, it isn't acceptable. We're building a company where we treat each other professionally, and that email was biting and caustic. This was out of character for you Mark, what really happened there?"
So there you have 6 of the most important leadership lessons to help you grow your ability to accomplish more through your team and to build deep working relationships with your team.
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