Good leadership. A mercurial set of skills and values. Qualities that give those who wield them the ability to plan for success. But what happens when a leader gets bogged down in the detail? How can leaders recognise the bad behaviours that adversely affects their ability to do their ‘proper job’? And how do business owners make sure that they take their business plans ‘off the page’ and turn them into reality?
Leadership. What does it take?
It’s a subjective question. In it’s simplest terms you can argue that a successful leader is someone who runs a successful business. But the list of qualities which make a good leader stand out from an average one is long. They should be trustworthy. They should show integrity and transparency in their dealings. They should be expert communicators, have great listening skills, and they should be able to show empathy. But that’s just the start. A leader should know what the core values of their business are (and then they have to live by them). They should have a strong vision for their business (and be able to express that strategy succinctly and with passion). And they should understand and believe in the need for continuous improvement. And it’s with these last three points that many SME business owners and leaders begin to fall down.
Work out your values. Live by them.
Core values underpin the culture of a business. If you have those established then you know how your business lives. How it can grow and move forward. At Ripe, our core values include: ‘Be bold and have fun.’ If we do things that aren’t bold and aren’t enjoyable then we know we’re going wrong. If you have a clear view on the core values of your firm—and you live by them—it makes decision making much easier. You’ve got to know where you’re going or you won’t know where you’re aiming for. And many business leaders I come across are concerned more about making a living. Running the business. Working in the business. Which is fine – it’s understandably priority number one. But they don’t spend much time on strategy, vision, or on setting goals.
Move out of your comfort zone.
You run an SME business. You’re going along OK. You’re earning a living and you’re in the comfort zone. Why would you want to move out of it? Setting a vision that says ‘I’m going to double the size of my business in 2 years’ represents something of a challenge. And that’s not to everyone’s taste. Businesses are like plants. They have to grow. The alternative is terminal. And a business has to grow and develop as well with purpose and direction. Otherwise they won’t know what they’re doing. The effect of this can be terminal, too…
Be self aware.
Steven Covey’s book 7 habits of highly effective people has some excellent pointers to be a more effective leader. His four quadrants for time management are particularly useful. Leaders, he says, spend too much time in the urgent half of the box. Even when 50% of those tasks are notimportant. The strategic and long-term tasks (strategy, marketing, planning) all sit in quadrant two. Tasks that are important but aren’t seen as urgent. Business owners should spend more time in this quadrant. But they rarely do—which is understandable. There are times when we all get bogged down in the work and don’t spend time on what we, as leaders, see as our proper jobs – moving the business forward. If you have a small business you can’t necessarily afford to have all your people doing the work—whilst you sit around and play strategy. It’s unrealistic. Being aware of an issue is better then blissful ignorance. Part of it is recognising what you’re doing and how you’re spending your time. It may not lead to you immediately being able to make changes. But it should help you frame where you should aim to spend more time—in the area that will have the best impact and outcome for you and your business.
Turn words into actions.
Self awareness is needed. Some theory is useful as well. But you also require a method to take your plans forward. The Mindshop approach is extremely useful for this. Mindshop provides you with tools and training to improve your skills as a leader and to grow your business. It’s all about thinking about your approach to leading your business in terms of three things: Where it is now This is your benchmark – our peg in the sand. We use tools like a leadership diagnostic, which will set out where you might be strong (or not so strong) in your leadership. Where it wants to be Your vision as a leader. You can take leadership workshops (ours cover things like motivation, life-purpose, decision making, problem solving, reward & recognition). And how do you get there Accountability. The key element to effecting change. Most importantly, at the end of a Mindshop session, you end up with a one page plan. This plan always sets out the Now—Where—How? It summarises where you are now as a leader. It outlines where you want to be as a leader. And then it details the actions and instructions that will get you there. Accountability is achieved by the implementation of the one page plan being monitored by someone other than you as the business owner. You know what you’ve agreed to do. You know how you’re going to do it. And we, as coaches, can help make sure that you achieve it all.
There’s a specific type of business owner who wants to continuously improve. Leaders who see growth and development as the only way a business can succeed. But many business leaders feel they are too busy. But you can improve your leadership style. By understanding your core values and your strategy. By moving out of your comfort zone and understanding the ways you can improve. And by using tools and techniques to effect the changes you and your business need to make. You know, there are hundreds of quotes about what makes a leader great. You see them on aspirational posters. In internet memes. We’ve even got some on our website. But, as with many of these things, they’re just words. When it comes to leading a business? It’s the actions that count…