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April 18, 2018
Growth  |  9 min read

How to Be a Leader

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Twila Grissom, Greg Head, Candi Luciano, Clate Mask, Sujan Patel, & Jamillah Warner

Peter Drucker famously stated, “What gets measured, gets managed.” And while it’s likely that your business tracks KPIs such as sales, lead generation, or even staff turnover, are you using this same disciplined pursuit of feedback to monitor employee morale?

Gallup reports that just 32.6 percent of American workers are engaged; it’s not surprising, therefore, that 69 percent of employees are “open to other opportunities or already seeking their next job,”

Far too often, leaders don’t take ownership of the problems that happen under their watch.

Stop and think about this: How quickly do you take responsibility for problems in your business? Do you blame the employee, the customer, or the vendor when something goes wrong? Or do you own it?

Real leaders take responsibility.

Leadership is one of the three pillars of small business success (strategy and automation being the other two). When the business owner determines to improve his or her leadership, the company always grows.

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How to be a leader: Creating leaders

As your company grows, so should your leadership skills. Whether you have three team members or 20 employees, you need to move from entrepreneur and chief sales officer to being more intentional , bout your role as leader and how to inspire a team. This takes continuous learning, feedback, and personal growth.

Leaders are developed through their own experiences and support from others. If we don’t grow ourselves as leaders, we stop growing as a company.

Leadership Techniques

Show people the game and how they can win it

A leader shouldn’t tell people exactly what to do or how to do it. Leaders do need to define and frame what the game is, what success looks like, what the standards are and why all that is so important.

Framing the game helps people see and understand what they are responsible for and how they can think differently to solve big problems. Most people want to see the biggest picture possible and know the real facts so they can make a real difference.

Help people believe they can do big things

The biggest challenge to growing leaders is not imparting knowledge or skills, but helping people through the common head game that plays out when they are challenged to change and move beyond their comfort zone.

Fear slows us down and limits creativity. An anxious leader will multiply the fear and limit the potential of any team.

It’s important for a leader to be involved enough to confidently say, “It’s a big job, and I know you can do it” so you can keep team members positive and confident while they handle big tasks with clear accountability.

Hold employees accountable without micromanaging

No one likes a micromanager. Your job is to create a leader who can continually figure out the questions and sort through the answers—without your continued help.

The faster you delegate questions and hold them accountable for the results, the faster you will create self-sufficient leaders that do amazing things without the need to micromanage.

Be the best example of constant personal growth

Most importantly, leaders need to demonstrate how they are continuous learners themselves. How can you ask someone to change and grow when you aren’t a shining example of openness, vulnerability, and change?

The most senior and successful leaders continually challenge themselves and work on their own head game to keep growing. This is the real game being played at the highest levels. Nobody sees what’s going on behind the curtain because of most leaders are good at looking like they are fearless, smart and don’t make mistakes, even when that’s not the case.

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How to get feedback from employees

Hold standup meetings

Ask everyone to remain standing; this helps keep it short. Ask each person to share one positive move they made the prior day to execute the vision, one thing they will tackle today, and any roadblocks they foresee. This simple exercise can ensure daily excellence and keep you informed to make adjustments or pivots to win.

Ask questions

People do more for leaders who they believe care. Show you care by asking simple questions or learning one new personal thing about a team member. Ask, “If I could do one thing for you today to make it easier for you to accomplish your goal, what would it be?”

Give team members a voice

Set open door/office hours on your calendar for team members to discuss whatever is on their mind. It could be as simple as 30 minutes every other week. Set the rules that if they present a concern, it must be accompanied by a solution.

Listening to your team — really listening, not just waiting for an opportunity to interject—demonstrates to employees that you care about their thoughts, ideas, and contributions.

Your role is simple: Just listen. Great leaders are great listeners.

i'm told i'm a good listener

Feedback Methods

Use a formal feedback process

Andre Lavoie, writing for Entrepreneur, shares the alternative process put in place by the startup Quirk:

“Quirk created flowchartrocess—in the form of a flow chart on the office wall—that allows anyone in the company to suggest ideas, gather support for those ideas (through signatures) and potentially have them implemented.”

Creating and implementing a public process may be more time-consuming, but when employees see that every piece of feedback is given serious consideration, they’ll be more likely to raise the critical issues they may have otherwise left buried.

Feedback gathering doesn’t have to be quite so public either. Automated tools like 15Five, TinyPulse, and others give the opportunity to capture employee responses privately and with much less hassle and discomfort than in-person meetings.

Watch employee’s actions and non-verbal cues

True feedback success comes from implementing programs, monitoring their impact, and iterating as needed. It’s about watching for cues that tell you that you’re not doing a good enough job listening to your employees and about acting on those signals to create a workplace that’s open to feedback.

Express gratitude

While it may seem like a no-brainer, it is easy to forget how far a simple thank you can go. It can be in person or via a quick call, a brief email, or an old-school note left on their desk.

Teach and encourage growth

Share an article, a quote you like, notice of an upcoming seminar or a story of your experiences. When leaders work with their people and push them to develop new skills and abilities, they are building higher levels of employee satisfaction and commitment.

Welcome new and improved ideas

Allow space for creativity and innovation with an online place for team members to submit their ideas on a specific initiative. If you do this, be sure you read them and make clear what you will or will not take action on.

Office downtime can help ideation and feedback process as well, whether that means casual breakroom chats or whole-team hangouts at a local happy hour. Focus on building solid relationships and company culture first, before expecting employees to be fully honest with their feedback.

Be on time—all the time

The face of business is changing. Many teams consist of independent contractors, and many of the sharper and more dynamic employees are going off on their own. Why not be the best leader that you can be while managing your team, your brand and your time?

Being chronically tardy can handicap your business in at least two ways—momentum and money.

  • Momentum: When it’s time for staff meetings, you want your team focused and excited. But if you run the meetings and you’re always running late, then there’s a chance that you’re stealing your own momentum. The ideas your team was anxious to share may turn into a quiet storm and a sense of underappreciation. They may never say anything to you—after all, you’re the boss—but the atmosphere and the motivation shifts.
  • Money: Six employees waiting 20 minutes for your arrival is two hours worth of work that you paid for but didn’t receive the best results from. It’s a commonly accepted rule in business that time is money. Not just your time, but your employees' time, too.

Respect generational differences

generational gap gif

Younger workers may want to give feedback in very different ways than your older employees. Millennials, for instance, tend to favor frequent communication and an open flow of feedback. Members of Generation X and baby boomers, on the other hand, may prefer to work within more established feedback structures.

Final challenge

Find one problem in your business that you’ve not taken responsibility for. Accept the problem as your own, publically. Then go to work—with your people—solving the problem.

Sujan Patel, co-founder of Web Profits contributed to this article.


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