If you're the founder of a start-up or small business, you know that leadership is everything when it comes to progressing your business. You're at the helm of the business; it is up to you to motivate your team, guide them to achieving OKRs (or goals), and keeping your business' core values intact during difficult times.
We aren't all born leaders, however, I believe adjusting your mindset and being diligent in following a set of principles and values can shape you into a greater leader. Strong leadership can mean the difference between a thriving business with a great culture or a shipwreck. Fear not! Read on to find out our top five tips for becoming a stronger leader.
Know what's going in your business at all times!
This may seem like a no brainer, but ask yourself if you truly have a grasp on every single thing that is going on in your business right now. What is on the agenda for client work this month? Are there any upcoming critical dates? How is the sales team doing? How is the marketing team doing? There should never be any surprises!
Now, I'm not saying to micro-manage every department in your company, but it goes a long way to be involved and have one-on-one meetings with key department heads on an on-going basis. Keep a journal and jot down the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks that are on the table. Weekly update emails to your team, which outline the responsibilities at hand, can be a great way to keep everyone (including yourself) in the loop on what is going on in the business. If you decide to use update emails, I highly suggest you create a consistent email copy structure that works for your business, outlines clear deadlines, and is easy to follow. In doing so, your team knows what to expect from your weekly updates and, more importantly, there are no surprises! It even helps to bold key points or dates.
Here is an email copy you can steal from us:
This week our top three goals are:
1. Successfully onboard [Client Name]
2. Complete the production phase on "[Project Name]"
3. Successfully launch [Client Name]'s Winter Campaign
I'm confident we can crush these goals as long as we work as a team and keep one another on track!
Here is a quick reminder of the important tasks for this week along with who is responsible for each task:
- Josh to Create ad-content for [Client Name]
- Ryan to Create proposal(s) for [Client Name]
- Sarah to Update [Client Name]'s Ad Words
These are the key dates and deadlines for this week:
- Complete Production on "[Project Name]" by October 8, 2019
- Launch [Client Name]'s Winter Campaign on October 9, 2019
- Complete Onboarding by October 11, 2019
- Meeting with [Name, Company] on October 11, 2019
If you have any questions or need any assistance, feel free to reach out to me! Let's have a great week!
Project management tools like Monday.com can be a great tool as well for keeping yourself on top of what is going on in your business. No matter what method you decide to use, make sure there are NEVER any surprises. If you're continually finding yourself surprised about areas of your business or by upcoming dates, take it as a wake-up call!
Maintain a Standard of Excellence and Have Clear Expectations
It is up to you as the leader of your business to make sure your team knows what the standard of excellence is, as well as what is expected of them. Mediocrity might work for your competitors but not for your business, and your team needs to understand this. Define your company's standard of excellence early on. What is equally as important is that you identify and correct when a member or members of your team veer off from the standard of excellence. If it becomes an on-going issue, you need to address this immediately and have a conversation with the individual(s) in question. You need to let him/her know that you have noticed inconsistencies with their work/behaviour, which do not align with the business' objectives and that, if this behaviour is not corrected, they may not be the right fit. It's a difficult conversation to have, but a necessary conversation none-the-less. When you let one team member get away with not respecting the business' standard of excellence, you're inviting everyone else to follow in suit.
It is your job as a leader to define clear expectations for your team members. Sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with each member of your team and let them know what you want to see from them on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Make sure to tell them that if they do not deliver on what is expected of them, it can have consequences for the entire team by slowing everyone else down.
Make deposits into the company's culture and educating your team!
I always advise entrepreneurs to define their company's culture early and over-invest in building culture. As the leader, your job is to elevate your team and make them feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Your team needs to understand that they have a collective responsibility to shape the behaviour of the company. Culture is something that needs to be respected 100% of the time. When anything comes up, that is not consistent with your company's culture; you need to cut it off as soon as possible. It can be extremely toxic to your company's culture when you allow inconsistent behaviour to exist.
Do not belittle or talk down to your team. Ever. Instead, give your people the self-esteem to try again and do better. Think about it like this: what is my team saying about my company when they are with their friends or family? Are they excited to talk about the work they are doing? You want your team to be proud to share about the work they are doing as a part of your business.
A great tip that I learnt from Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks Coffee, is to do yearly audits of your company's culture. Send a simple questionnaire to your team and ask them to fill it out anonymously. You'll be surprised by the feedback you get it.
Another way to make deposits into your company's culture is by welcoming outside speakers to do presentations at your office. Find someone who your team would be excited to listen to and learn from.
Be the leader who is continuously investing in developing a company culture. Your team will be motivated and proud to work for a great organization that makes them feel like they are a part of something. The key takeaway here is to invest in a company culture very early.
Reward Great Performance & Build a Strong Team
A performance-based environment encourages your team to put their best foot forward. People within your organization should know that if they perform well, they will be rewarded. Please note that this does not mean that you should be punitive when they do not meet your expectations.
When it comes to rewarding great performance, this can be a simple gesture, like acknowledging a hardworking individual at the next team meeting, free sports tickets, or dinner!
Building a strong team stems from finding individuals who share your values. Your team members should possess complementary skillsets and have domain expertise. I encourage young entrepreneurs to start to think about who they want on their team well in advance. Ask yourself what type of people you want to grow your business with. Define your values early on, and ensure whomever you bring on has likeminded values.
While we aren't all born leaders, I truly believe we can craft ourselves into stronger leaders by adhering to a strict set of principles. Start by making sure you are aware of what is going on in your business at all times. Establish a clear standard of excellence and educate your team on what is expected of them. Over invest in culture and cut off any inconsistencies early. Lastly, reward people who work hard within your organization and find like-minded people with the domain expertise to help you grow your business.