You don’t have to be a business dynamo to lead well. Today, empathy and trust are among the most important skills you need to successfully lead a business. Find out what good leadership looks like, why it’s important and fine tune your skills.
Most people do better with someone firmly at the helm. Without a strong leader employees may work well for a time, but eventually they’ll run out of steam. This hurts both your people and profits.
Improve your leadership skills to:
Focus on improving these three areas — it’s a win for your business and your people will reap the rewards.
Good leaders use different intuitions. They lead based on the situation, their personality and values. Some people need to be led more than others. Different employees respond to different leadership styles, so it’s important to take time to understand your team.
Your leadership style may change daily, weekly or monthly, depending on who you’re dealing with and what you’re trying to achieve.
Businesses built on trust are generally more profitable. Making trust a key part of your work culture is an essential business strategy.
It can positively affect:
Trust is a two-way street — the more you can trust your employees the more they will trust you and how you run your business.
Employees who don’t trust you to make good decisions or behave with integrity will struggle with morale. If people trust you, they’ll generally work harder, be loyal and less likely to move on.
Trust helps give you a competitive edge. People trusting they can experiment and make mistakes leads to a high performing team, where creativity and ideas flow.
And if you trust employees to get on with things to a high standard, it frees your time for other pursuits — whether business or personal.
Look for ways to build trust into your strategy to:
Some employees trust more easily than others, based on their life-experience or world view. You may have to work harder to build trust with people who are more guarded by nature. Work these three key steps into your leadership approach to see trust levels grow.
Take note of what they hold dear and do something about it. It shows your team you value them and not just what they can do for you.
Share why you’re doing things. Show how your actions benefit employees and the business. Make sure you’re honest and have nothing to hide.
Sharing the outcome of your decisions gives employees faith in your ability to lead. Point out when things have gone well and be honest about when they haven’t. Explain what you’re doing about things that haven’t worked quite as planned.
This is particularly useful when leading into the unknown, eg when you’re launching a new product or service. Employees may not trust the business will pull it off. Respect this. Tell people why you think the product or service will work then share incremental results, eg sales figures or customer feedback that support your reasons.
Business has been slow for Jed’s lawn mowing firm. The market is crowded with people offering the same service. Jed thinks it’s time to branch out. He gathers together his 10-strong team to share his plans.
Jed explains that they’ve been losing business and that if they don’t act, he may have to start laying people off. He pitches his idea to offer tree maintenance as well as lawn mowing. He says he’s spoken to a few customers who say they struggled to find tree surgeons when they needed to trim trees on their properties. He also says he’s seen an advertisement from a power supplier looking for arborists to partner with them to keep electricity lines clear. Jed asks his team what they think of his plans and encourages them to share their ideas and concerns.
A few of the team are unsure and are worried about using a chainsaw. Jed shows them examples of the protective clothing he’s planning on getting and shares details of the training course he has lined up for staff who are interested in developing tree surgery skills. He makes it clear people who aren’t will continue doing lawns. Jed also arranges for an arborist friend to be a mentor to talk to the team about how he finds the job and to answer the team’s questions.
Jed lets the team know he has a couple of customers keen on them cutting down trees in their gardens. Once they’re up and running, he gives them regular updates on bookings. He compares booking levels to when they only offered lawn mowing.
He makes sure they’re aware he’s meeting the power suppliers to talk about being a preferred supplier, and when they’re accepted into the next round of applications, he buys the team beers to celebrate.
Some of the team get behind the new offering straight away. Little by little those who were wary see Jed knows what he’s doing and start to relax about the new venture.
Employees are typically more engaged when they can count on you to treat people fairly and make consistently fair decisions. Ask yourself how fair your employees might perceive you to be in your:
How you allocate resources: How do you decide who works which shifts, who gets to drive the company vehicle, how projects get approved or what employees are paid? In HR this is known as Distributive Justice.
How you apply policies and processes: Do you ask employees what they think before you introduce a new policy or process? Do you apply polices ethically and fairly, eg give everyone the same opportunity to take leave, or give everyone the chance to work from home? This is known as Procedural Justice.
How you share information: Do you explain your decisions clearly, do you get back to people in good time, are you mindful of who you’re talking to and tailor how you communicate to their needs? This is known as Informational Justice.
How you treat people: Do you treat people with dignity and respect? Do you avoid bias, or do you favour people with the same background and views as your own? This known as Interpersonal Justice.
When thinking about what’s fair, consider treating people equitably, equally or based on their individual circumstances. Think about people’s personality and individual needs.
Equity: Sometimes, giving people what they deserve — or being equitable — is the fairest way to go. For example, giving a high-performing member of the team a bigger bonus than regular or low-performing staff may be fairer than giving everyone the same.
Equality: In the case of flexible working or time off, giving everyone the same rights might be the fairest approach. These are terms and conditions of employment and not related to performance.
Needs: Sometimes the fairest decision will be based on people’s needs. For example, it’s fair to give someone time off to grieve a death, or have an operation. But it may be unfair to give someone three months off to go on a world trip, unless you’re prepared to do that for everyone.
The best leaders: