Time and time again, I meet entrepreneurs who’ve spent so long chasing the “self employment” dream that they sometimes overlook the fact that – somewhere along the way – they’ve become employers.
Business ownership thrusts leadership upon you.
Leading your team well is the make-or-break difference for most small businesses. And yet it’s one of the only areas of entrepreneurship that little in life prepares us for. There’s no leadership “school” – it’s a capability you are more or less left to figure out on your own. And that can be difficult, when most of the best selling books on the subject seem to be written by Fortune 500 senior executives.
You’re not trying to manage hundreds. You’re simply trying to captain a crew to profitability and incremental success. So let’s ditch the dusty management guides and follow the 80/20 principal.
The simple mnemonic device “GROWS” allows you to pluck the low-hanging fruit of hyper- effective leadership so you can get on with growing your business. Let’s break it down…
G is for “Great Beliefs”
Before you lead any group of people to do something extraordinary, it pays to equip them with a set of awesome, empowering beliefs that allow them to get the job done. Beliefs are the psychological lens we filter our view of the world through. The beliefs your staff hold are going to determine their choices in every customer interaction… and all those little moments when they’re un-supervised.
Inspiration and motivation are irrelevant here – before we start playing with those Jedi mind tricks, you must first instil the beliefs that ensure the job gets done right.
The way to build beliefs into your small business’s culture is to talk about them. Have a set of maxims – mantra like statements that represent your beliefs – and share them with your staff as often as you can.
Great, useful beliefs include: “It’s possible to change things” “You’re in change of your thinking, and therefore your results” “Your actions can and will make a difference” “You already have or can find the resources (resourcefulness) I need to solve any problem”
R for “Reasons to Act”
Basic rule of behavioral psychology: No one, not even someone already on salary, will take any action unless they have a sufficient rational that provides psychological leverage.
Equip your team with multiple “reasons” why they can, must and want… to take action. Scary asshole bosses traditionally go nuts with threats when it comes to “Reasons to act”… and they
may even get results! However, the best (most consistent) results happen when there is healthy balance of carrot (positivity is cool) and stick (because we live in “reality”).
Ask yourself and your team questions like:
“What is the cost of not doing this task?” … and…
“What is to be gained by taking action now – as opposed to next month?”
You should always make it 100% clear to your team WHY you’re asking them to do something, what the positive outcome will be and what the negative consequence of them not doing it – not just for them, but in terms of consequences for the business.
O – Outcome Clarity
This one gets included simply because most folks forget the important parts of goal setting.
Tangible measurements of success are essential for achieving it. You can’t accomplish goals if you don’t know what they are.
Be as specific as possible when you’re setting objectives with your team. Make sure everyone has a key metric they’re individual focusing on. Try to find a way to measure and record success – even if it’s literally as pedestrian as a gold-star-chart.
Practical approaches to turning a lame “goal” into a laser-precise “outcome” include asking: “What will it look like when you have this?” “Where will you be doing the moment you realize you’ve achieved your goal?” The more vivid and emotionally compelling the better.
W – Wilful Action
Lead by doing. This is the simplest and the most overlooked “essential ingredient” in the recipe for leadership success. Willful action is getting up and doing it – being the change you want to see happen.
Many times, people with the right beliefs, reasons, outcomes and even skills (see below) will still sit around waiting for someone to go first! An essential part of leadership is being able to get in the trenches and charge.
This is where you – instead of dictating from the back office – stand up and lead! It’s the difference between merely managing, which is a synonym for “just getting by”, and actually being a leader.
S – Skills
This is where the technical training and real life “school-of-hard-knocks” stuff comes into play. Don’t bother leading folks who are incompetent. Invest time (and money) in first giving your people all the know-how required.
Develop your staff and reward intelligence and independent thinking when they demonstrate it. You must avoid the classic trap of small business leadership where you forever cripple yourself by teaching your staff learned helplessness. Each week that goes by, trust should increase and their need for your support and expertise should be less and less.
If this isn’t the case, you’re not leading a growing team – you’re simply making yourself an irreplaceable cog in a inefficient machine.
The whole point of leadership is to develop a team who can take care of customers, ship product out the door and make the business money – freeing you up to work ON the business, instead of IN it.
You can’t afford not to be a fantastic leader.