Why leadership is important and where to start: Leadership fundamentals for your business.

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

Today's leaders are faced with a multitude of challenges that can create roadblocks to success. In order to stay on top, they need the right tools and guidance. This post provides "5 leadership fundamentals for your business leaders”.



Your task list is endless, you are wearing multiple hats and constantly short of time. At some point, as you face continued competing priorities something will have to give. Most commonly what gets dropped and de- prioritised are the people pieces.


At the end of 2019, statistics published by the Small Business Administration showed that when a startup failed, 82% of the time it was due to bad management and leadership inexperience.


Managing people is one of the toughest parts of running a business and becomes more complicated as you grow.


Whether you are the leader of 5 or 20 people, or have hired leaders to manage different functions within your business, a key determining factor to the success of the business will be the ability of the leader(s) to engage, grow and lead the people within your teams.

Investing in leadership doesn’t have to be a costly (time and money) exercise, but it is important!


The best advice we can give is to have a consistent and structured approach. We work with organisations to develop and implement leadership frameworks and the first step (always), to set your leaders up for success is to build the framework around the time and capacity your leaders have to give. For example, don’t tell the team that you are going to host weekly team meetings if the reality is that fortnightly is a better frequency. More isn’t better…. Consistency is what’s best.


Here are some thoughts


Structure and Consistency

Structure liberates both the leader and the employee. When both the leader and employee know what to expect, it helps to remove fear and ambiguity. Having a structure that sets out key expectations helps to build accountability.


For example… an unstructured plan of ‘try and catch up with the team this week’ v ‘schedule a 20 minute catch up each fortnight’ in most instances, will produce a different result.Spoiler: If you ‘try’ to make time for something, it won’t happen!


So what are some leadership fundamentals?

Here are the 5 areas that we consider when mapping out a leader’s responsibility and building a framework for success


1. Provide coaching

Usually one to one; coaching is working with others to help develop their skills and interpersonal capabilities, to increase capacity. A common coaching method is on the job observation and feedback.


2. Connecting to purpose

Taking the time to work with your people at a team and individual level will help ensure that everyone is clear on what the purpose and goals of the organisation are, and how their work links to this. Employees will better understand how their daily and weekly goals and tasks contribute to the overall purpose and achievement of the organisation’s goals.


Employees see purpose as a way to bring meaning to their work and rate it as one of the most important factors in their job.


3. Give feedback

Feedback is critical to building trusting relationships. Take the time to provide team members with meaningful feedback. People can sometimes associate feedback with blame, however feedback is about developing for the future. Here are some tips on giving constructive feedback:

  • Before offering feedback, consider the value of it. If it’s of no value to the receiver, what’s the point in giving it?

  • Comment on things done well (remember, these things might be in the receiver’s blind spot), not just on areas for improvement.

  • Focus on observed behaviour; describe what you saw and felt.

  • Be specific. The more general your feedback is, the less useful it is. Give specific examples of things observed that were done well or need improvement.

The other piece that is important is to communicate how you want the team to give you feedback. As noted above, feedback is critical to building trusting relationships. Great leaders, seek out and act on feedback. Make it safe and encourage your teams to give you feedback. Here are some tips on receiving feedback:

  • Be proactive and ask for feedback.

  • Accept the feedback as the view and experience of the person giving the feedback.

  • Avoid arguing, denying or justifying as this prevents you from listening. Focus on clarifying details and identifying specific examples that will help you move forward.

  • Take time to consider the feedback and how it can help you moving forward.

  • Say thank you and acknowledge the energy taken to give you feedback and their efforts to help.

4. Set expectations

Take time to set clear expectations for the team on both job performance and behaviour. This will be a useful tool to refer back to if there are any off-track behaviours and will make it easier to have the conversation about what is expected and what is being demonstrated.

Job performance expectations are also known as KPIs. Clear tangible targets that the individual has to meet each period.


Behavioural expectations are often linked to the organisation’s values and set clear expectations around the standards of behaviour employees should be practicing


5. Reward and recognise good work

Make reward and recognition a priority. Recognition (even more than reward) is valued by employees when considering their satisfaction at work.A 2016 HBR article cited that 40% of workers said they would put more effort into daily work if they were recognised for their efforts. Less than 10% of employees think that their leaders and managers adequately recognise their contributions. Make time and create ways to recognise individual and team contributions.


Conclusion:

As you grow, one of the most important things to do is invest in your leadership. It doesn’t have to be costly (time and money) but it does require some thought about which areas are most critical for success. Take time to think through what this looks like with your leadership team or seek external support to gain input on how best to create a framework for success.


References:

https://www.nfx.com/post/strong-startup-ceo/

https://hbr.org/2016/05/recognizing-employees-is-the-simplest-way-to-improve-morale.html

https://thinkgrowth.org/scale-up-leadership-lessons-i-ve-learned-over-9-years-as-hubspot-s-ceo-39521f5b7567

https://www.fingerprintforsuccess.com/blog/bad-management

https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/how-scale-changes-a-manager-s-responsibilities

https://www.pwc.com/us/en/purpose-workplace-study.html

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/help-your-employees-find-purpose-or-watch-them-leave

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