Leadership Thoughts for the Aspiring Entrepreneur

One of the key ingredients to building a sustaining business is leadership. There have been many volumes written about leadership, trying to answer questions such as: are you born with it or is leadership learned? Do all leaders have the same traits? Is leadership situational? What are the differences between managers and leaders? All great questions, each one worthy of being part of a continuous learning process.

True leadership, which is needed to sustain your business is partially instinctual and partially a continuous learning process. The instinctual component comes from your general beliefs and approaches to dealing with people. If you have an ability to work with people; help them understand why they and the job they are doing is important; want them to develop into what ever their dreams might be; and also believe that customers are the reason you exist and not a nuisance- then I believe you have some of the instincts that are foundational building blocks for being a leader and not a managing boss. If this list of statements has you scratching your head or wondering why anybody would possibly want to help an employee reach their dreams, then you might want to think about looking to hire someone with the necessary skills and track record of successfully getting others to perform exceptionally well.

The learning part of leadership is part of life’s journey and your willingness to become a lifelong learner and observer of what makes people want to work, want to give their best efforts, and want to go the extra mile to make sure your customers have received the attention that will make them not only want to do business with you again, but will also cause them to recommend you to a friend. This learning will show up in the hiring practices you employ, the training program you implement, how closely you are able to match compensation to quality work, and how closely your actions and words align with each other, as you ask your team to implement new processes, serve customers, try new things, work harder and represent your business.

To be a leader you must be able to be in the trenches with your people, help them to understand what has to be done, when it has to be done, and to what specifications it must be done and then empower them to take the actions necessary to complete that objective or job. It does not mean that you do not take quick and decisive action for non-performers, because not taking action is contrary to doing what is best for the team and for the customers they serve. Taking action on non-performers is part of the alignment between action and words.

Being in the trenches can mean a variety of things to different businesses. The smaller your operation the more it means understanding how to do each job and being able to tell your staff, in a one-on-one setting, how that job fits into making the customer service proposition work. The larger your organization becomes, you must still find ways to communicate how a particular job or task fits into the service equation and that you understand the risks and rewards of being a team player.

Whether the business is large or small communicating with employees about where the company is headed, how it is doing and particularly how their role impacts the company’s success or failure, is essential. Those communications need to be made in a manner that works for all kinds of employees. Sending out an email is communication, but not the kind of communication that makes people feel personally accountable or a part of a team that cares about results and cares about them. An annual performance review is also communication, but not one that gives the employee an opportunity to grow and provide input throughout the year. If you were only talked with on an annual basis, how much a part of things would you feel? A leader finds the right way to communicate with their team on a continual, formal, and informal basis, being ‘corporate’ when necessary, but most often being personal in their communication style and approach.

True leaders understand that the key to having happy customers is having happy employees serving them. Happy employees are generally a product of a work environment that allows them to understand the entire process and understand why they are important in that process. It also allows them to continually grow or become the best that their dreams allow them to become, recognizes them for the work they perform and has leadership that can closely align their actions and words.

Leadership requires an interest in what makes customers happy, and more importantly what makes the people serving customers an excited motivated team. Leadership requires that your words and actions be constantly aligned and that you believe in people and their abilities.

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