The essence of effective leadership is motivating your team to consistently perform while instilling a desire to improve, as well as cultivate employee loyalty to colleagues, yourself and, ideally, the company. It can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be if you approach it with the right attitude and priorities.
Before becoming an entrepreneur and small-business contributor to Money Crashers, I worked under the tutelage of some talented and dedicated managers. By emulating them, I was able to not only consistently improve my department's productivity, but also reduce staff turnover by instilling a sense of verve and commitment to their duties and responsibilities. Here how I did it:
1. Communicate intelligently. Some managers mistakenly believe that barking orders and instilling fear in your staff are the hallmarks of managerial success. But if this is your strategy, you're likely to only succeed in creating a unmotivated, antagonized staff.
Instead, take the time to learn how to effectively communicate with each of your employees. Indeed, some may require firm, though respectful, directives, while others will respond best to a soft tone and congenial attitude. Adjust your management style to each employee, and don't expect them to conform to yours.
Regardless of how you communicate, the one thing that must remain consistent is that you are straightforward and honest. Don't try to beat around the bush or avoid explaining exactly what the problem is. For example, is the cash flow of your business not being accurately recorded? Then explain the issue to those responsible and let them know you will hold them accountable for the areas that you pinpoint.
2. Accept responsibility. Simply put, if you make a mistake, own up to it. Don't be tempted to pass the blame onto employees if it's your error, as this can cause you to lose credibility and trust with your staff.
However, if you accept responsibility for your own errors, your staff is more likely to respect and support you, and therefore will work harder for you. Once you've taken responsibility, proactively address your mistake to correct it and to ensure that it doesn't happen again.
3. Deal with confrontation. Whether it's confronting lagging performance or inter-office disputes, it's up to you to set limits and maintain a harmonious working environment. If you don't have the wherewithal to address issues directly, consider hiring someone specifically trained in executive coaching to help you navigate.
4. Praise—and reward—your staff. If your sales figures reached or exceeded expectations last month, don't bask in the glory alone. Acknowledge all who had a hand in the success. Nothing motivates like praise and rewards, and there are multiple ways you can reward your staff without breaking the bank. For instance, you can take the top-performing employees out on an exclusive offsite at your weekend home, get tickets to a sporting event or concert, or even a night on the town. Building this kind of rapport can reap huge rewards for building momentum and loyalty.
5. Know when to speak up. If you're comfortable handling confrontation, you're likely comfortable presenting an opinion contrary to the status quo. Show enthusiasm for your ideas and point to your track record as a leader and successful entrepreneur, and you should have your staff trusting in your abilities.
Still, judging when it's appropriate to speak up requires tact. The last thing you want to do is insult your staff or condescend. Also, be honest with yourself, and detach your ego from the ideas you present. If your suggestion is passed over, don't take it personally. You employ a team of professionals in whom you trust, and if they advise against your ideas or initiatives, it may be in your best interests to heed their advice.
Maintaining an awareness of office politics can also help you know if it’s appropriate to interject your point of view, and when. One way to do this is to encourage an “open door policy” in which your employees feel empowered to speak up in meetings with you or send an e-mail when there are team issues.
As a small-business owner, it’s been my experience that core leadership traits stem from a place of integrity, maturity and confidence. If you feel good about who you are as a person, are interested in doing right by yourself and others, and can look at situations objectively, you can look forward to developing a tightly knit team that can foster business growth.
OPEN Cardmember Andrew Schrage is the co-owner or Money Crashers, a community of people who try to make financially sound decisions. David Bakke is a contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance, where he writes about topics like small business, careers, and the best bank account promotions."
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