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Five top tips to adopt in 2021 to improve your leadership skills

14 January 2021
Mark Friend
Ambitious Startups, Accounting & Compliance, People, Building a Business

In today’s fast pace business world the need for growth is essential. However doing it on your own is incredibly difficult. Having a strong team around you is key but this can only be created and sustained through strong leadership.

In my last blog I looked at what is leadership? In this blog I want to dig deeper in to the attributes of what makes a strong leader.

If you ask a hundred people what leadership is in business you will probably end up with a hundred different answers!

But there are common threads in most people’s responses:

  1. A vision.
  2. Working with a team to deliver results.
  3. Building the team.

So what are my top five tips to strong leadership?

  • Create a vision which your team can buy in to.
  • Engage with your team.
  • Build trust, create conflict, get commitment, make your team accountable and results driven.
  • Pick the right team members and ensure they are in the right seats.
  • Create a conveyor belt of talent.

Create a vision which your team can buy in to

Why do people work for you? The money? If that is the case then most likely you will only have your employees for as long as you are the highest payer. For most employees although money is important it is not the sole driver. Other key motivators are do they relate to the business’ cause, will they earn respect and have responsibility.

If you can create a vision which taps into one of the other key motivators you will then have the opportunity to generate loyalty to the company.

If your team believe in what your business stands for, feel that they can be productive or creative, that they are listened to and can grow within the company, and feel respected, then they are more likely to stay. But first you need to create and communicate the vision, so you are operating the type of company which not only meets the business owners goals but also those of the team.

“Vision gives team members direction and confidence.” ~ John C. Maxwell

John C Maxwell started writing about leadership in the 1990s and is now considered one of the leading authorities on leadership.

It is of paramount importance that once the vision is created you live by it and ensure you communicate your vision to your team repeatedly. This leads us neatly on to engagement.

Engage with your team

A lack of engagement is common in many businesses, with business owners sometimes seemingly aloof from the team. Usually this is because of a misunderstanding of what engagement really is.

Engagement is about ensuring that your team are clear about the vision and that they are clear about their role in fulfilling that vision.

In order to be effective engagement needs to be regular and repetitive.

Below are the four key meetings which all strong teams should adopt, particularly if you have remote working teams.

  1. A weekly production meeting to discuss weekly targets and any potential roadblocks that could prevent targets from being met. Big issues should be saved for monthly strategy meetings. Weekly meetings should be about ½ hour to 1 hour long.
  2. A daily huddle to discuss key actions for the day in order to move the company goals forwards. This is done in bullet points. No detail is required but ensures that senior management are clear that the actions being taken are in alignment with the weekly production targets. This should only be a five to ten minute meeting, possibly with everyone standing up.
  3. Strategy meetings should be held monthly or irregularly to deal with key roadblocks or strategic issues which need to be addressed to help meet the company’s quarterly or yearly goals. Topics could be staffing issues, supply issues, system issues or short term changes in the economic climate. The meetings should be confined to one or two subjects and be around 2 to 3 hours duration to ensure the issue is properly addressed.
  4. Quarterly off site meetings are designed to take the key management team offsite and to refocus their attention on the direction of the business. This could be looking at the next yearly or quarterly budget or goals, new products or services, acquisitions, major system changes, new markets or it could be as fundamental as reviewing the company vision or core values. Basically it is a forum for the big ticket thinking which will drive change within the business.

“Effective teams have teammates who are constantly talking to one another.” ~ John C. Maxwell

The above forces engagement but to be truly successful your message must be delivered not just by you but by your management team, and to develop an effective management team it helps to look at the reasons why teams can still be ineffective.

Build trust, create conflict, get commitment, make your team accountable and results driven

This idea comes directly from Patrick Lencioni’s book about “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. This is one of my favourite reads and in my view is a must read for all leaders who want to grow a strong management team.

The reality is that however strong you think we are, if you want to move your business on to the next level you have to build a successful management team. But building a management team alone isn’t enough. The team has to be cohesive and the members must work together to achieve the company goals and avoid departmental infighting.

Patrick looks at each dysfunction; a lack of trust, a lack of conflict, a lack of commitment, a failure to be held accountable and a failure to be results driven, and he then looks at the solutions.

The answers can be hard to swallow as a leader. Making yourself vulnerable and open to your team may go against the grain for many. But by being vulnerable and open you can build trust within your team, which then leads to more conflict between team members in meetings, which in turn results in better decision making. Increased trust and conflict should result in increased commitment and the confidence not just for the business owner to hold people to account but for the whole team to hold each other to account. Ultimately this leads to the whole management team becoming results driven.

This change in culture can be tough for both the business owners and the individual managers to accept. Many will feel uncomfortable but I would urge you to think about it how much easier it would be to grow your business if your management team were fully engaged.

“Working together means winning together.” ~ John C. Maxwell

This leads us on to the next key tip which is to get the right people in the team and ideally get them in the right seats.

Pick the right team members and ensure they are in the right seats

If employing people is easy why do we so often seem to pick badly? The simple reason is that not everyone with the right skillset is right for your business.

Every business develops their own unique culture which may be right for one person but not necessarily right for the next.

And some people will just never be the right fit because they lack all the qualities necessary to carry out the role you want.

As a business owner you will have your own style and your own unique vision of where you are taking your business. You may want to be disruptive in your industry with huge growth plans or you may be extremely creative with a vision to change the world for the better but with modest growth plans. Each business will have very different business owners with very different visions, which in turn will attract very different team members.

Over time you will develop a culture which suits a certain type of team person. The attributes of that ideal person are probably your core values. We have identified that for us it is team members who have pride in their work, who are open and honest, who are extremely client focused, who are accepting of change and who are passionate about self-development.

We also look for individuals who display the key qualities for a team player- emotional intelligence, hunger and most importantly humility (see “The Ideal Team Player” by Patrick Lencioni).

By focusing on the attributes you are looking for in a team member you are more likely to increase your chances of building a great team that is then easier to lead.

The saying “hire for culture and then train for skill” is becoming increasingly popular in business and is one which I have personally failed to abide by, sometimes to the detriment of the business. It is easy to get blinded by skillsets but no amount of skillset will compensate for a poor cultural fit. This is a  lesson I have learnt the hard way!!

One key tool you could use is the Myers-Briggs test or DISC test to evaluate not just new team members but also existing team members.

‘Myers-Briggs’ is a simple test you can take to determine what personality type you are. There are 16 personality types based on four of the five big personality traits – introversion or extraversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving.

In my particular case I have the personality type INTJ or an ‘architect’ and whilst many have criticised the test as not being scientifically robust we have found the assessment to be accurate from our own first-hand experience.

If your team take the test you get to understand a little better the strengths and weaknesses of each individual which goes a long way in improving the dynamics of a team. In my particular case as an INTJ my weaknesses include a lack of emotion and being overly critical. I can therefore come over as uncaring which if you are an ESFJ (a consul) can be bad news as many are overly sensitive to criticism. By being aware of my team members’ personality types I can try to curb my natural reactions to others and they can try to understand the way I act and vice versa.

If you are interested in taking a free Myers-Briggs test then use the link here.

You can use core values and personality trait testing not only to identify whether individuals will be good team members but also where they may be best utilised in the organisation.

Getting people in the right seats is something you need to be able to do to build a cohesive team. Having someone like me as a customer services officer might not be a good idea!

“A sign of a great team leader is the proper placement of people.” ~ John C Maxwell

This leads us on to my final tip. Once you have found the right people is key the next step is to develop them and give them the skills they need.

Create a conveyor belt of talent

Developing your team is probably the most important element of strong leadership. In many respects more through luck than judgement I have been doing this for 20 years, through our commitment to training our own people from scratch. We currently have nine team members who are either under a training contract or taking professional examinations and this number is likely to increase. But this isn’t just about trainee apprentices or graduates, or retraining team members with professional qualifications and skills, it is also about the development of soft skills and those skills which are key to building the next generation of leaders. In our business we have implemented a mentoring program to start training our seniors for management and for our management team to grow as leaders.

It is essential, however, that your development program never stops. Whilst we all hope team members will stay forever in reality things change.  Despite all your good intentions a valued team member moves on so that they can grow further in a different environment or to change direction. It is therefore so important that as leader you ensure you always have a stream of new team members being developed and create a conveyor belt of talent.

“The single greatest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development.” ~ John C. Maxwell.

I hope the two blogs I have written on leadership have been of interest to you. Strong leadership is probably the most important attribute a business owner can develop and is key to the growth of a business. The article highlights some of the tips we use to promote leadership within our business and those of our clients. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you please contact Mark Friend.

The content in this blog is correct as at 14/01/2021. See terms and conditions.

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