Do a Leadership Checkup

Leadership. What the heck is leadership anyway? And why should a small business owner care?

Some folks use the word “leadership” as a synonym for influence. Let’s expand that definition to include a couple of other important activities:

  • Influence
  • Setting the example
  • Removing obstacles for your people

This is not an all-encompassing definition of leadership. Volumes have been written on the subject. In a small business setting, though, it’s good to have a simple, common-sense approach to things so let’s focus on these three attributes.

Influence

There are many kinds of influence. A screaming child in a restaurant is influencing the embarrassed parents.

You can use various types of influence over your staff. But we’re not talking about domination. Of course your position of authority is real so you can’t (and wouldn’t want to) turn that off. But how about simply asking your team – individually and collectively – to deliver the desired behavior?

Years ago, I had two employees who became hostile toward each other after a previously harmonious working relationship. It was jarring for their team members, because they both were considered friendly and easy-going. Quickly it became apparent that this wasn’t going away.

Sitting down with both of them, I pointed out that they likely spend more time at work than with their own families, and a troubled relationship affected everyone around them. They got it, and all returned to normal soon after that.

But it’s not always that easy. A similar situation later erupted with two other employees, and it required more firm and direct language: “You don’t have to like each other but you must work together in a professional and congenial way. Otherwise one or both of you will have to leave.”

You’ll develop your own style over time, but don’t shy away from issues in your business – deal with them directly and quickly.

Checkup:

  • Do you avoid issues or deal with them promptly?
  • What past problems could have been avoided, and what current issues could be solved via a dose of influence?

Setting the Example

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Nothing will spoil your good leadership efforts faster than “do as I say and not as I do.” This doesn’t mean you have to become “one of the guys” but know this: Your people watch you like a hawk. Model the behaviors you ask of your team.

Checkup:

  • Are you a stellar model for your team? If not, in what areas do you need to improve?

Removing obstacles for your people

As the business owner, you’re the main resource provider. Here’s a good way to find out what obstacles are in your team’s way: Ask ‘em.

How about having your employees create a “Stop Doing” list, or a “Hassles” log? What resources do they need? What procedures are outdated?

Checkup:

  • Are you fully aware of obstacles and resource shortcomings in your operation?
  • Do you have a plan for addressing them?

Be a leader

So, a simple formula for small business leadership includes using your influence to promptly deal with problems, setting the example and removing obstacles. Let me know if you’ve got more to add to the formula.

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