Cultivating and leading a small business is no doubt a challenge, but having a clear set of values helped me dissolve that overwhelming feeling of, “Oh gosh, how do I do this?” while turning my dream into a flourishing startup that I’m proud to be a part of.
Whether you’re looking to move your small business out of your home and into the city, or you’re simply pushing to improve your management and leadership skills, here are a few tidbits to help steer you to success.
1. Be Curious and Practice Frequent Communication
Classic, I know. I’m sure this one was expected, but I propose a different style of communication. Rather than sit in my office and wait for employees to come to me as a last resort for help, I constantly check in on my team.
I once read that you should be out of your office and on your feet more often than not, so as to ensure quality communication and a refocus on a common goal. While this might be a great way to meet the recommended goal of 10,000 steps a day, I don’t believe you need to sacrifice your own time in the office because I know you’ve got tasks and goals just like the next person.
With that said, I do suggest getting out of your office at least once a day to seek a face-to-face update from each individual teammate. When you’re genuinely curious about someone’s work, they eagerly open up–no prying required–conversely making the whole communication thing much more effortless.
2. Focus on Internal and External Transparency
I don’t want you to go shouting your plans, goals, and secrets from the rooftops, but I do suggest you drop any unnecessary confidentiality. No one wants to work with a shady business or person, so don’t let that be you or your company.
It’s a leadership skill to be honest and upfront in as many situations as possible. It will gain your trust, avoid any miscommunication, and allow for constant feedback.
When it comes down to it, the direction is good and so is an outcome that your client actually wants. That being said, not only should you be transparent with clients, but you should also be open with your employees so that everyone is on the same page and the company grows together.
Thus, if you have a plan, first make sure your team is up to date, then explain it to your client thoroughly:
- This is the plan we agreed on.
- Here are the steps you and I must take to make it happen.
- If we follow these steps here is what the result should be.
- Should the plan fail to pan out as it expected, here are possible causes.
- We will update you frequently, and we ask that you update us as well because this is a partnership.
Voila! We’ve seamlessly implemented the first tip, regarding communication, into the second tip! These things are not mutually exclusive.
3. Trust Your Employees and Their Unique Vision
Every team member was hired for a specific, valid, and unique reason–trust in that. Embrace the idiosyncrasies of each employee, since this will keep your company fresh while reminding your workers that they add value to the business.
Few people want to feel like they signed up for a position that offers no room for a personal touch, because if you don’t want their unique contribution, some other company will.
Just as a parent may want to hover over a child and dictate their every move, it would drive both parties insane, while simultaneously leaving no room for the child to explore their individual creativity.
As the old saying goes, “Two minds are better than one,” so fight any urge to micromanage, because it will only lead to unnecessary stress, stale ideas, and unhappy employees.
4. Value Critical Thinking and Honor the Outcome
This is a leadership skill I was taught at a young age and one that I still implement in and out of the workplace today. To critically think is to take a problem or conflict and break it down, recognizing various solutions, weighing the pros and cons of those solutions, and settling on the best resolution to your knowledge.
I make certain that my team knows that no decision will be met with punishment so long as it is the product of critical thought and results in an outcome that they truly believed was most suitable given the situation.
Let’s bounce back to that parenting metaphor: if a child has a valid reason for coloring a picture on your wall, it’s unfair to get upset with them. The best you can do is either view those crayon squiggles as a serendipitous masterpiece or give the child a piece of paper to color on next time.
It might not be the way you would color a picture, but to them, it was a genius idea that simply spruced up the walls.
This also goes back to the previous tidbit: as a leader, you must trust your employees (and their ability to think critically and make decisions).
5. Celebrate the Small Wins and Have a Good Time
This is probably my favorite piece of advice for developing leadership skills, because who doesn’t love a good celebration? Whether it’s a solid high-five or a full-blown bash, it’s important to celebrate every win, big or small.
If you can encourage your workers to share their joys with the office, it will again highlight the importance and value of each individual team member.
Just as basketball players pat each other on the back for a good pass and tennis doubles low-five one another between sets, your team should do the same…well maybe don’t emphasize constant back pats and low-fives, but you get the idea.
If a sports team waited until the win to celebrate, they wouldn’t win very often.
Similarly, if your company team waits until the win to feel accomplished, you’ll find that your business doesn’t make it to the championships. The more often you can increase morale, the better off the office environment will be, the happier your employees will feel, and the more successful your company will experience.