Tips to Grow Your Leadership Skills
Expert tips for developing leadership skills and driving your small business.
Great leaders are decisive, effective communicators with foresight who create a culture that inspires their employees. Those traits, skills, and qualities develop over time. To help you improve your leadership abilities and better guide your company, we asked experts to sound off on some of the biggest leadership questions of small business owners like you. Read on to gain insight that can help you build leadership skills and achieve your best year yet.
Managing a Remote Team
Especially during these challenging times, it's common place for many businesses to let employees work from home. While it may be convenient, this can potentially create several challenges — especially for team leaders. Colleen Stanley, president of sales training company SalesLeadership in Denver, Colorado, shares strategies for effectively managing a remote team.
How do you manage a remote team? Our business is 100 percent remote, with a team throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Can you provide tips for communicating, creating processes and building culture?
— Dayne Shuda; Ghostblogwriters.com; Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Remote team members can feel like they are on an island, so it’s important to make sure they feel included. If you’re wondering how you can improve as a leader, here are a few tips for building community and connection:
Encourage team building with activities
When holding the weekly/monthly sales meeting, share one “little-known fact” about a member of the team. It’s important to achieve the sales quota and the fun quota. Have members of the team send in success stories and sales stumpers for a weekly coaching call. Training and coaching is a process, not an event.
Share feedback using online tools
Combine information into a document and select a service where the document can be viewed by all members of the team. Provide live coaching, feedback, and recognition. Ask for feedback from members of the team. How have they dealt with similar challenges?
Stay motivated with a theme
Create a theme each quarter and assign members of the team to develop ways to keep the theme “alive.” This can range from sending funny cards to their fellow team members or a motivational quote each day, to surprises landing in the reps’ home mailboxes. Set aside a budget so your sales team can be creative.
Balancing Feedback With Strategic Vision
Sometimes leadership goals are at odds with the desires of the customer. Barry J. Moltz, small business consultant and author of “How to Get Unstuck: 25 Ways to Get Your Business Growing Again,” shares how you can align vision with customer feedback.
My biggest leadership challenge is balancing customer feedback with the strategic vision for the growth of the company. How do you know when to implement customer feedback into your sales process versus ignoring it and building what you know they would want and need anyway?
— Bryan Clayton; GreenPal; Nashville, Tennessee
Set strategically where you want to go. Focus on what pain you solve and which buyers have the money to solve the pain. A company that serves everyone really helps no one. While selling and servicing these customers, listen to their feedback and gradually incorporate it into your company’s direction to boost sales. Remember, customers vote with their money. It’s the best way to figure out what they want.
Scaling Your Business
Growing your business means having the right people, technology and processes. There can be lots of bumps in the road when scaling your business, and Moltz expands on how to address these challenges.
I’m transitioning from running a small agency to a medium agency. What are the biggest hurdles for business owners when making the transition from small to medium-sized businesses?
— Chris Post; 2M Locating; Sacramento, California
The biggest hurdle is the organization, process, and infrastructure that needs to be created to run a larger company. At a smaller company, these things can be taught orally, but at a larger company, all leverage will be lost without this structure. With more people and a bigger organization, it also takes longer to change directions and respond to the marketplace.
A common culture is also difficult to maintain as the company expands with additional team members. A way to develop leadership skills and grow the business is to get away from a hub-and-spoke model where everything has to go through you. Draw the organization based on who can make decisions on their own in specific areas. If you are the only one that can make important decisions, this needs to be shifted to a more hierarchical model.
Giving Effective Feedback
When giving your employees feedback, always be open and aware of how you give your response — especially if you have to talk to them about something difficult. Moltz expands on the importance of employee feedback.
What is the best way to discipline an employee? For example, publicly, privately, or does it depend on the context of the situation? How can I use that employee’s misbehavior or mistake as a teachable moment for the entire company without humiliating or making the employee feel uncomfortable?
— Clint Evans, Alamo Pressure Plumbing; ; Stanton, Texas
Giving effective feedback is an important skill to cultivate as a leader. Meet with them privately to point out the mistake and seek next steps so it does not happen again. Teach the mistake to others without placing blame on the individual and focus on the future solution.
Staffing Positions Based on Attitude
Your employees can be trained if they don’t have all the skills they need when joining your company. Moltz touches on a key trait you should look for when staffing.
When staffing positions, how do I make sure I get the right people in the right seats?
—Mary “Mickey” Swortzel; New Eagle Consulting; Ann Arbor, Michigan
Match for attitude, not skills. You can always teach skills, but not their attitude. Make sure anyone you hire is a cultural fit.
Understanding Your Customer Base to Drive Business
When you know who your customers are, you can create an optimized customer experience to maximize engagement. Juntae DeLane, digital branding evangelist and founder of the Digital Branding Institute, expands on the importance of understanding your customer base.
Our customer base has changed over the last two years. How do I get a better understanding of exactly whom our customer base is?
—Candice Galek; Miami
Understanding your customers’ most pressing issues, problems, and desires is important. Each person in your customer base has a specific want or need and is naturally receptive to consuming information that helps meet their challenges. By understanding what your customers care about, you can start creating content to meet their needs.
As they begin to engage with your content, you can develop a deeper understanding of how this challenge affects their lives. With this engagement, you also can recognize the engagement patterns of your best customers.
Learn More About Actionable Ways to Improve Your Leadership Skills
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