How to Be an Effective Leader

Creating successful relationships with employees is probably the most difficult part of running a small business. It’s so hard that many of the framers I work with have decided that it’s easier to do everything themselves than to deal with employees.

Being a successful leader means serving and investing in employees and developing a winning team where everyone is working toward the same company goal.

The problem with that thinking is you have pre-determined the fate of your company. Going it alone means you will never maximize opportunity and that seems contrary to what running a business is all about. I don’t believe you run a business to give yourself a job. I believe running a business means challenging yourself to provide products and services to the level they are demanded by those you serve.  If you believe that, then you know you can never make the decision to limit growth.  In fact, if you decide to limit growth, you must be willing to sabotage your own success. I’m not really sure it can work that way.  So..…it’s almost inevitable, that if you truly want to be successful in business, you will have to learn to relate to team members and learn to be an effective leader. One thing that makes this so difficult is that effective leadership is the result of practicing the opposite of what most of us think will work.

The Opposite of Being Served

It took me a long time to understand this, but if you think your employees are there to serve you, then your company will never excel in serving the customer. That’s because employees serve customers based on how they are served in the workplace. Yes, I mean served. Believe it or not, it’s the owner or manager’s job to make sure the employees are equipped to serve customers. This is done by providing the employee with the correct tools to do their job. Making sure they have those tools is the service you provide for them.

Attitude starts from the top. No one treats the person they serve better than they are being treated. Want great service for your customers? Treat the people you hired to do that job like you want the customers treated.

The Opposite of Doing What You Want

If think owning you own business gives you the benefit of coming in late, making personal calls and enjoying work time like it was personal time, you will have a difficult time growing employee relationships. In fact, you will fail. No matter how much you believe you have the right to do what you want in your own business, you will never effectively lead unless your lead by example. If you don’t, all those company “rules” become just that- rules that quickly become resented. The policies you set are there for one reason- they are right for the business. You above everyone else must demonstrate that the policies are vital to success. Once you say you are above them, you may as well throw out the manual.

Manual? Yes manual. It’s amazing how many framers complain to me about employees not doing the job they were hired to do. As we talk further, I often realize there is no written direction for the company! If it’s not written down it doesn’t exist. If it doesn’t exist, you can’t complain that it’s not being followed. You can’t make it up as you go and expect employees to follow along.

The Opposite of Being the ‘Boss’

Many small business owners like the title “boss” and what it represents. They want to control all the decisions and be the face of the company. They do this because it makes them feel important.

Owners who do this often complain that their employees show no real interest in the business. They complain that people today don’t really care about their jobs or the places they work. That’s interesting thinking. Who would care for long if you were unable to contribute? Owners who insist on being consulted for every decision can’t build a team that grows.

Giving employees the training and decision making authority to do their job empowers them and makes you an effective leader. People like shopping in places where the employees can make quick decisions leading to great service.

The Opposite of Being Popular

That’s right, you have to give up the idea that those you lead will ever think you are nice. That’s not a compliment when you own your own business. Chances are if your employees think you are nice, then you haven’t been leading them. That’s because leadership requires investment.

Investment in someone’s growth requires real commitment. If you decide to invest in someone you are willing to confront and say no. Allowing your employees to do things which hurt your business or the relationships in the business is not investing in them and not being an effective leader. It is your responsibility to make them the best they can be. An effective leader practices catching employees doing the right things more than bad things. Pointing out great behavior and reinforcing it builds great behavior.

Good employees value your willingness to invest in them. Poor employees hate it. I know it’s time to let someone go when I’m no longer willing to invest in their growth.

Choosing to Lead

So if being an effective leader means you serve those who work for you, receive less freedom and are destined to be unpopular, why would anyone choose to do it? One answer is most do not choose to do it. Most small business owners struggle with employee relationships until they give up. The result is constant turnover or the decision to do it alone. Neither is good for business.

For those who understand that it comes with the job and that it can produce great results, it is a journey worth taking. Why? Because when it’s done correctly, the feeling is like being a part of a winning team. There’s nothing better. On a great team, no one is more important than anyone else. Everyone is working toward then same goal and because they enjoy the thrill of winning so much, they don’t even mind investing in each other to enhance team performance.

There’s at least one more benefit. If you become a great leader, your team can perform without you. You will have given them the training and tools to make proper decisions and keep the momentum going even when you are gone. That’s when you know it’s worth it- because now you can take time off from setting the correct example and investing! Unless you have kids… then it never stops.

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