We all learned our leadership style from watching others and honing our personal approaches over time. As I worked with my mentors and developed my skills, I climbed my way up to leadership positions. For example, today I own my company and am the leader of LeTip International, Inc., a nationwide business networking organization. But before I was the owner and even a Vice President, I started as the Regional Director of Arizona. Working my way through the ranks was not without its challenges, but since I had a strong attitude and was motivated to achieve every goal I set for myself, I made it to the next level. I was elevated to LeTip National Training Director in 2003, and then to Executive Vice President the following year. I was swiftly reaching milestones, and in 2005, I was named President of LeTip. I forged an excellent relationship with LeTip’s creator, Ken Peterson, who had a consistent track record of success inside the firm, and eventually I decided to purchase LeTip and become the CEO/Owner in 2008.
I want to share with you six principles that I’ve picked up along the way that any small business owner can use to set themselves and their staff up for success.
Start with You
You cannot be a leader until you first learn to lead yourself. Take the time to get to know yourself and what motivates you. As a leader, you must be willing to examine yourself, make adjustments as necessary, and never ask others to do anything you would not do yourself. Understand that not all employees will have the same attitude toward your company or the same inclination to accomplish things the way you want them to be done. As the leader, you need to be flexible, and make them feel important as if they are working with you, not for you. Being willing to step up when the going gets tough and do things you may feel are beneath you demonstrates to your team what you are made of, and they will learn to go the distance as a result.
Employees matter – they are people!
Employees are people first and foremost, meaning you must have high emotional intelligence while interacting with your employees. A leader fosters a culture in which people feel respected, heard, empowered, and encouraged. My door is always open, and I am constantly encouraging my people to share their thoughts on how things may be improved. Consider using an idea box, for example. It might be anonymous or with their name on it.
When we implement one of the suggestions within the LeTip organization, the individual who provided the solution earns a percentage of the savings in the form of a bonus check. This allows employees to think outside of the box and not only feel as if they have contributed, but also to be rewarded for the wonderful ideas that result. It quickly spreads, and everyone is looking at the organization to see how we can improve it daily rather than just once in a while.
Communication is key
Understand whom you’re working with and how they think. Determine what is important to them and speak their language. Employees must feel free to express themselves, and leaders must be aware of what is going on with their teams while not taking over the project or micromanaging. It is always easier to “do it yourself,” but that mindset will either result in you doing everything yourself or being frustrated. With open and honest communication, you can allow employees to make errors and accept responsibility for them. There is no success without failure.
Within my business, we discovered a respectful way of speaking to each other by implementing B.A.N.K. This communication methodology allows us to better understand how we like to be spoken to. Some people like to have a plan, while others like to know the immediate action items. In other cases, some of us like to be given as much context as possible while others prioritize the feelings of the people involved. Knowing the teams’ preferences helps me tailor my communication style accordingly.
Organizational Strategy & Development
Organizational Development is critical in ensuring that the appropriate people are in the right place to drive the business forward. A competent leader understands how to entice and elicit the best performance out of each member of the team. “Good people produce good products and services,” therefore make sure your employees are in the correct position for what your organization needs. While you are most concerned about your staff, you must instill critical thinking and problem-solving abilities in them.
You will always need to be ahead of the game in terms of creating objectives and following through on them. Leaders must be able to predict future organizational demands to fulfill objectives. Understand what is going on in your industry, read articles on current events within that industry, and prepare to make adjustments in advance and consider the larger picture. Prepare by surrounding yourself with thought leaders and assistance, such as a professional CPA or CFO, attorney, and so on. Don’t try to do it alone.
Be Prepared for A Crisis
Prepare solutions for each scenario you can think of before it occurs and prepare to change or to make changes. While most of us dislike change, it must be considered as a chance for growth and development. Having a plan helps us manage a crisis logically and keeps emotions out of our reactions. Take the time to assess the problem and think clearly after considering what the change will accomplish for the entire business. Don’t be scared to make a blunder. Always admit any mistakes you believe you have made. It demonstrates your humanity.
Prioritize Building Your Network
Always keep an eye out for who can help you and how it will work. Everyone in business today, in my opinion, should be a part of a networking group. Be choosy and selective. If you don’t feel comfortable when you walk in the door, run! You must instantly feel at ease and safe. There’s no need to strive to fit into four or five groups. Find one with whom you may establish ties.
Over time, such ties will not only help you expand your business, but they will also serve as mentors and counselors. Many of them have been in the business for many years and will completely shift your perspective on how to run your own firm. In my opinion, networking is critical for longevity, vigor, and growth.