Most of us have probably been in a situation where we worked with a group of people, and the project went well or terribly depending on the quality of the group leadership. In your business, whether you’ve got a company of 100, 10, or 1 – YOU are the leader. What’s the quality of that group’s leadership?
Do you think of yourself as a leader? If you’ve got the title of entrepreneur, CEO, or “wearer of all the hats,” you’re leading your company. It doesn’t matter how many people work for you – if you’re not in the regular habit of leading yourself, you won’t be able to lead anyone else, now or in the future.
What steps are you taking to become a better leader in your business? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Are you prepared for each day?
Do you regularly take time in the morning (or at the close of working time the night before) to prepare for your day? Do you have a list of tasks and one to three goals you want to accomplish each day? Do you know what absolutely must be done, what would be nice to accomplish, and what can be left off the list?
If your answer is NO, then take some time to think and plan at the start of tomorrow’s work day, and every day after that. Give yourself a list of no more than 3 tasks that must be accomplished, and set an intention for how you want that day to go. Establish this as part of your morning routine, and stick with it! You’ll be surprised how much more productive you are throughout the day when you’ve got a clear plan.
Do you regularly seek to improve?
Nobody ever got really good at something if they didn’t regularly strive to improve their skills, and the same holds true for running a business. As the leader of your business, you’ve got to start with improving yourself, and you’ve got to keep up the habit regularly. Read more business blogs or books (and apply the lessons you’re learning!), participate in webinars and online classes, go out and attend conventions or other events. There’s a ton of education available out there to help you get better at whatever you’re trying to improve, from marketing to operations to profit. Pick something and start learning! Put it on your calendar so that you’re setting aside time each week to learn something new.
Do you ask for feedback?
How do you know you’re good at something? Someone tells you! (The same is true for knowing if you’re not so good!). You can give yourself feedback by setting up regular times to review what’s working and what’s not in your business (once a month for a quick review and once a quarter for a longer one is a good rule of thumb). At these same intervals, it’s a good idea to get outside feedback, from employees, contractors, business advisers, consultants, and customers. Create a survey, send a quick email, give them a form to fill out, and ask them what you’re doing well and what could be improved. Then, the all-important next step is to follow up and make changes according to the feedback you receive.
What’s the very next step YOU will take in order to lead yourself toward improving your business?
If you feel like you need to work on improving your skills, we’ve made it easy to incorporate reading more business books (and applying their lessons!) into your routine. Sign up for the Small Biz Book Club and you’ll have the option to read along for free, and get weekly updates to remind you to make the time to improve. Enter your e-mail into the box to get all the details:
Are you spending all your time in the day-to-day tasks of running your business, or do you regularly take time to think about what truly matters to you and plan out your overall mission and vision? If you don’t know where you’re going, or have a plan for how to get there, how do you ever expect to grow?
Do you (and everyone who works with you) know what you’re actually trying to accomplish? Have you ever outlined a “mission and vision” statement for your company?
Get Clear on Your Mission
Mission and vision statements aren’t any good if they’re super vague – there needs to be a clear objective. When you write yours, instead of saying things like “strive to provide excellent customer service,” write out your objectives using specific parameters and terms. Think of this as the way you want to do business, the type of company you want to run, and the type of CEO/owner/leader you want to be. Get very specific, and keep it simple. Otherwise, how will you know when you’ve succeeded?
Plan Your Goals
Once you have identified your bigger mission, it’s time to set goals that will help you achieve it. Something I have kept with me from my adventures in the knitting industry was this nugget of wisdom by Cath Kidson:
Stay true to your idea
Learn to say no,
Don’t confuse a distraction for an opportunity,
Trust your gut,
Don’t be afraid to ask for help,
Stay focused (See reference here.)
Remember as you’re setting your goals to always keep your mission statement in mind. For every opportunity that comes your way, hold it up in the light of your mission statement and make sure it’s a good fit before you go running down that path. Stay on top of your current goal, and focus on one thing at a time, to see real progress.
Test the Theory
It’s time to put your mission statement to the test:
- Could it be anybody’s, or is it distinctly yours?
- Ask your employees (if you have them – or consultant/contractors): what is their ultimate goal for your business? How similar are their answers and how close are they to YOUR answer?
- What would your customers say? If you asked them what your goal is, would they even be able to come close?
Once you have provided honest answers to these questions, you may realize that you need to tweak your mission statement to improve it. The process should constantly evolve as you do and as your business grows, so make a point to revisit it once a year and see if any changes need to be made.
By focusing on what’s most important and regularly reminding yourself of your larger goals, you’ll find you actually get where you wanted to go.
As a female who has been in leadership roles for as long as I can remember, what follows may seem like I am betraying my gender. But I have repeatedly watched these behaviors sabotage potential leaders.
Of course, generalizations are just that, so not all apply to all female leaders and some will apply to male leaders. But most often when I experience these leadership failures, it has been under the leadership of a woman. Do you see your own leadership mistakes in these scenarios?
1. Using emotions as a crutch or a weapon.
Everyone has emotions, and trying to negate them completely is just ridiculous. However, managing them to an appropriate level is necessary in every leadership scenario. If you can’t manage and lead yourself, why would you believe you can do the same for others? The trick is to find a reasonable balance.
2. Prioritizing other things over leadership.
As a leader, you have to ultimately make all decisions with the best interest of the team in mind. This means that sometimes you have to make very hard choices, particularly in terms of self-sacrifice. The most common example? Choosing family issues over other leadership roles. Of course your family is important; but it cannot always take precedent over the team, or the team soon figures out that they are not a priority for you.
3. Waiting to be invited instead of asking.
A leader must be assertive; it is one of the characteristics that is required for the job. Do you find yourself living with the assumption that if you assert yourself they’re going to think you’re bossy (or worse)? The reality is that leadership and bossy-ness are not the same thing, at least not when done correctly. Asking for the opportunity to lead politely and professionally, regardless of your gender (of course assuming your are qualified!), is always the right, first step.
4. Trying to “lead like a man.”
Quality leadership is gender-less. If you examine the behaviors of any truly high-quality male leaders, none of their actions have to be couched in phrases like, “Well, they can get away with that because they are a man.” Every time a male in a leadership role “gets away” with some behavior, a critical review would show it is not an example of good leadership. Our gender and our personality will ultimately determine our style of leadership, but all of the best leadership skills work equally well whether a man or a woman is the one using them.
5. Struggling to say or do the hard parts of leading.
Projects and processes that require leadership will inevitably have ups and downs. Leading when things are going well is never as challenging as when things are falling short. Giving bad news, making difficult choices, and doing the hard thing is where leadership can truly be evaluated. Letting go of our societal norm of needing to be “liked” and/or getting everyone to “agree” is a critical step to successful leadership.
Where do you feel like you struggle or fail as a female leader?
Lately I’ve been working hard to figure out my next path, and to map out the details of my next adventure. And for me, at least, that path has led me to a belief that I have long held, and how that belief can be a benefit to other women.
Here it is, my basic belief: All women lead.
Now, not all women claim that leadership as a title, or wear it as a mantle of honor, but they should. Being a mommy is a leadership role. Big sister is a leadership role. Whatever your professional title is, that’s a leadership role. That time you pitched in to help with the church youth group? Leadership. That time you sat on the PTA committee for the school dance? Leadership. Helping your parents make choices about their retirement lifestyle and elder care? Leadership.
Leadership isn’t always something we pursue with intention. Oftentimes, it’s something we literally fall into (or get roped into). As such, we sometimes don’t even realize that in saying yes, showing up, or volunteering – we’ve put ourselves in a position of leadership. And then we don’t own that title, or recognize ourselves for the leaders we are.
The thing is, though, if you approach everything in life as a leader, you’re more effective at everything else – even supporting others, because a good leader is a good follower!
So it’s my mission to help my fellow women by showing them how to…
- acknowledge and embrace their leadership roles
- own their wins
- strengthen their leadership skills
- recognize opportunities for leadership and put their strengths to work
Right now I’ve got two preliminary projects I’ve been working on. The first is a free gift – my Confident Woman Checklist is a 5-step method to help you boost your confidence and take daily action to recognize and strengthen your leadership skills. If you’d like a free copy, just click here and enter your e-mail in the form to get it. After you do, you’ll be taken immediately to the landing page for my second project.
The next thing I’ve been working on is a brief single-question survey (seriously, ONE question!). The responses I get from this survey will help inform everything I do next, from the products & services I create to the blog posts I write and the emails I send. So even if the checklist isn’t your thing, I’d REALLY appreciate it if you could click here and tell me about the single biggest challenge you’ve been facing in your life as a leader (even if you didn’t realize until now that that’s what you are!).
It will seriously help me out, so please click here and take just one minute to give me your feedback. As always, you can also leave a comment and begin a conversation about women and leadership – I’d love to hear from you.
Leadership can be a lonely job – oftentimes you’re standing alone, trying to navigate rough waters. Tough decisions sometimes have to be made, and you don’t always get to be the “good guy.” But if you’ve done your job and truly listened to those you lead, you should be able to stand confidently, knowing that you’re making tough decisions for a good reason.
Tweet the image below to share a tough decision you’ve had to make as a leader.
If you’ve been feeling like some tough decisions need to be made in YOUR organization, comment and I’ll help you figure out what they are and how to make them.
Anyone who has ever led knows that leadership isn’t all sunshine and roses. It’s natural to want to complain, and indeed you probably should have a safe place to vent your frustrations once in a while. But if you’re spending all your time as a leader complaining, then you’re not spending it in your most important role: leading toward a future where there’s less to complain about in the first place.
Tweet the image below to share how you’ll come up with a solution to one of your biggest complaints.
Do you notice there’s a lot of complaining going on among the leaders of your organization?