Business owners, level up your leadership in 2023 to achieve all your goals.
Why? One-third of businesses will not survive their first two years, and only half will survive five years. The strength and ability of the leader is the critical differentiator for business failure or success. How can small business owners become the leader they need to be to ensure their business survives and thrives?
Small business leaders don’t get special leadership training programs from HR. Chances are, they are HR. So how can small business owners become the leader they aspire to be? I suggest they focus on three areas for growth. The first is Focus, the second is Team Development, and the third is Execution.
The first step to becoming a better leader starts with knowing yourself. What are your personal goals and objectives? How does that influence your Vision for what you want for your business? Good leaders align what they wish for themselves and what they want for their business. And with that alignment, they can better create a clear path forward for the company so that they can communicate effectively for the team.
When a leader has focus, goals and priorities become crystal clear. And with that clarity, decision-making becomes more manageable. Is it aligned with the Vision, or isn’t it? Does it advance the business toward your larger goals, or doesn’t it? And finally, does it bring value aligned with achieving your priorities and meeting your objectives?
Focus enables the leader to be clear on how they want to run their business. As their business grows, they won’t speak to every employee individually every day and ensure they execute their way. They can’t do it; it’s not how they should spend their time. So getting clear on business strategy and communicating effectively ensures the team aligns with business values.
In corporate America, there is always some initiative for people’s development. In small business America, it is more difficult to achieve. How can you scale team development with small business resources?
It begins with hiring well. Build a process that provides consistent outcomes and results. Start with clear job descriptions that help you identify the skills and talents the candidate needs. It allows the candidate to see if the position is a fit.
Assessments are helpful tools as well. We recommend the Core Values Index (take it free here) as it defines the innate strengths candidates bring to your firm. It is not the only criteria to use for hiring, but it can guide your questions for the candidate and show how well they align with the position’s needs. They also will help you understand how your team will interact.
Once hired, the next step is providing clear guidance and direction to your employees. This gets back to our first point on Focus. When you are a focused leader with clear goals and priorities, you can quickly communicate them to the team. And you have to share them often. The more people on the team understand the business direction (Vision), the better they can see how they contribute to that Vision. And that brings alignment and engagement, so you have less turnover.
Finally, as a leader, you must encourage frequent feedback to your teams on good and bad performance. A former boss told me that “problems don’t age well.” Deal with issues as soon as you become aware of them. And, more importantly, catch people doing something right and acknowledge it.
Small business leaders must also prioritize execution as the final piece of the puzzle. Successful execution involves effectively meeting objectives and advancing priorities.
Objectives are the measurable, graphable goals that tell you how your business is performing. They consist of lagging and leading indicators to know if you are making the achievements today that will deliver your results tomorrow. These should be reviewed at least monthly and discussed with your team. Compare your outcomes against the prior year and plan. And assess what those numbers are telling you about the future and make adjustments to a forecast as necessary.,
Your priorities are the work that you need to do. These big business-building projects deliver the future for you, your team, and your customers. You do not want to have more than 9 of these with no more than three in a given quarter in a year. You should check progress on these projects against major milestones and budget each month.
And don’t hide it when you are struggling to execute. Too many leaders don’t want to “make the team nervous,” so they hold back bad news. The reality is, if you’re not hitting your deliverables, employees can see it in their workload. Make a point to deliver updates on these items to your team in a monthly town hall or report out.
Being a successful leader is not a happy accident. It requires attention to focus, team development, and execution regularly. If you want to become the leader you aspire to be, let’s connect, see what’s getting in your way, and build a plan to level up your leadership.