I’ll always remember my biggest lesson on leadership skills when I first became ‘the boss’. Every time I think about it I cringe…
About a year after starting my new business, we’d kicked a big goal, and it was time to celebrate. It had been hard work to get a new small business accepted in an established market. At last, it was…
Time for champagne all round!
Earlier that week our new admin assistant started work with us. She was a 17-year-old straight out of school.
I asked her to go to the local department store to buy some champagne glasses. She came back over 2 hours later empty-handed and distressed.
I felt dreadful when I realised she didn’t know what a champagne glass was. She had felt too shy to ask the big boss (me) to explain, and too embarrassed to ask for help in the department store.
I never wanted to put someone in that position again, and so I started my journey to learn how a leader should behave. Best-selling author of books on leadership, John C. Maxwell, says it all here:
‘A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way’ John C Maxwell
Over the next few years, this is what I learnt:
1. Show empathy
Be aware of other people’s needs and your own impact. You might not see yourself as a scary big boss. To a 17-year-old just out of school, you may well be. Make sure staff understand directions and requests.
2. Give recognition
Notice what’s going right. Notice when people around you are doing a good job. Take the time to give honest praise, recognition, and encouragement. People appreciate being noticed, and you’ll be rewarded for it.
3. Be positive and enthusiastic
People take their lead from the boss. Whatever the boss is doing and saying, they will copy. After all, the boss should know better than anyone else how to behave and act. Otherwise, why are they the boss?
4. Act like you can until you can
Of course, the boss doesn’t know everything; no one does. But, everyone thinks the boss should know. I found that acting as if nothing was a problem made my staff feel confident and relaxed. That gave me time to race around and find the answer.
5. Be consistently approachable
Being approachable doesn’t mean allowing people to interrupt all day every day. But in the same theme as ‘it’s the boss’s job to know everything’, the leader knows where the business is headed and needs to be available for consultation. Make yourself available.
6. Ask for suggestions
Help staff members to grow in confidence. When they come to you with a question, ask them “what do you think we should do?” With your support, they may be able to come up with the answer themselves. They’ll gain confidence, and over time they’ll learn more and more and be able to take on more of your responsibilities.
7. Demonstrate integrity
Always do what you say you will do. If you don’t, give an open and honest reason why. That will discourage staff speculation and gossip. Set a good example. Don’t have favourites and always keep confidences. Be the person that people trust.
8. Show, don’t tell
When you want someone to do something, explain the outcome that you want. Then ask them what steps will they take to get that outcome? By letting them tell you the steps they’ll take, you’ll be able to work out if they can complete the task as you want. You’ll soon know if they need more guidance. Telling should be showing.
9. Don’t abdicate. Delegate
Abdicating is throwing someone a task you want done without taking any responsibility for it yourself. It’s unfair and you most likely won’t get the result you want. Spend a little more time. Describe the outcome you want and make sure the person has all the skills and information they need to be able to complete the task.
Learning to be an effective boss
Learning to be the boss effectively isn’t an easy task. The good thing is that many people have already learnt how to do it. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We just need to copy how successful people do it.
Being an effective boss encourages loyalty and enthusiasm from staff and the respect of customers and suppliers. What do you do to avoid small business disasters AND make sure you’re an effective boss?
To your business success!