The transition from employee to business owner is a liberating one filled with freedom and excitement. However, it can also be a difficult one. Shifting from a single area of expertise to working and leading across many disciplines often falls outside the comfort zone for many.
In the early stages, you cope – yes, there’s a lot to do but fuelled by passion, you’re happy to work harder than you have ever done before and the learning will be hard but deeply satisfying.
But what happens when you start to scale up? What happens when the sheer volume of work becomes too much and you become responsible for a team?
This is where good leadership (and delegation) skills are invaluable and you move from being a business owner to a business leader. I have helped many clients develop the skill set required for this process and often a mental shift is required for this to be successful. Here are some of the most important tips to help you develop into a great leader.
1. Surround Yourself With Good Advisors
96% of entrepreneurs reported talking to peers on an informal basis over the last 12 months for advice and support. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely path and creating a network of trusted advisors is critical. The trick is to make sure you get the right input from the right people.
There are many ways to create this network, from finding a mentor to inviting key people to act as your board of advisors. Many of the best leaders are also part of associations such as the Young President’s Association, networking groups, working with a business coach and so on.
Action: make a list of your ideal top ten advisors or groups and take steps to ask them for advice. You’ll be surprised at just how willing people are to become involved. Always be prepared to give back in return if you can.
2. Make Time For Learning
Large organisations have long realised the importance of learning and employees often benefit from regular training programmes with the company footing the bill. But when it comes to your own organisation, training for yourself and your team may not be a top priority – in fact you may be much more concerned with ensuring that their monthly salary is covered.
However, the best leaders are those who have a continuous focus on learning and encourage others to do the same. One successful entrepreneur I know feels this is so important she puts it as a priority, dedicating one hour every morning to learning. Okay, so it may not be in a classroom with expensive trainers, but with so much material available online now, there’s no excuse.
Action: check out this list of top ten business books (including Verne Harnish’s Scaling Up’) and commit to reading a chapter a day. You could also get the audio version and play it in your car if you do a lot of driving. Finally, surprise and motivate your employees by rewarding them with a business book or other learning experience.
3. Be Open To Feedback
Great leaders know themselves intimately – both their strengths and their weaknesses. To do this, it requires having honest conversations with ourselves which isn’t always easy. Are you a compassionate listener or do you tend to interrupt? Do you take on board your team’s suggestions and initiatives? Do you maintain a positive attitude even in times of challenges?
As Jack Welch, former GE chairman and CEO said: "Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."
Action: Invite five people you work with to give you feedback citing your top five strengths and your top five areas for improvement.
4. Connect and Communicate Authentically
In the world of business, we often feel it’s necessary to present a corporate version of ourselves, yet one of the most important leadership skills is being able to draw upon our emotions to connect with others.
We all like to be perceived as being professional, but presenting our more vulnerable humane side is a trait of successful leaders as well.
Regular in-person meetings with your team, showing rather than telling, maintaining values of honesty and transparency, all go a long way in connecting with others.
Action: Discover you own Leadership preferences here:
If you would like to learn more about how to lead your team to success in 2017, our experienced team can assist. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s create a plan that’s right for you.