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Small Business Tips: Six New Year Resolutions to Improve Leadership

Small Business Tips: Six New Year Resolutions to Improve Leadership
By: Kevin Eikenberry, author of From Bud to Boss – Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership (Jossey-Bass)

The New Year brings promise, excitement and New Year’s Resolutions. But this article isn’t about losing weight, starting your exercise plan or one of the other common personal resolutions people make. Rather, this is a practical and timeless list of resolutions you can make as a small business owner to create more confidence for yourself, more engaged and happier employees and a more successful business.

While these small business tips don’t impact profitability, sales, gross margin or other key factors, they will positively impact these important financial measures for as long as you are in business. 

These resolutions are about your behaviors and habits and how they affect your employees and their productivity. Taken individually, they can make a difference in your results; collectively, they will change your level of business success forever.

Six Resolutions for Small Business Management:

Involve others in goal setting and planning. Yes, it is your business. Yes, it is your financial stake and you are the one taking the risk. And  yet. . . your team members are invested in the business too. They spend their time, effort, and energy. Wouldn’t you like them to be more personally invested in the success of the business? Let’s put it this way: would you like your employees to think more like owners? 

If so, you have to involve them in the goals and planning for the business -- i.e, you have to drive employee engagement. You may set the overall direction, but let them be involved in the creation of the outcomes. Slowing down enough to involve them in this important work is a big key to greater involvement, commitment and success.

Keep goals in front of yourself and everyone one else. Have you ever set a goal only to later not remember exactly what it was? This resolution will keep that from ever happening again!  Once goals are created, everyone needs to be reminded of them regularly. This isn’t an exercise in micro-management or nagging. Rather, as a leader, you must help people keep their goal in mind and remind them of what success looks like -- which means employee motivation is key. There are dozens of ways to do this -- from using bulletin boards to regular conversations in team meetings. Find several that work for you and your team and implement them.  

Communicate more and in more ways. I wish I had a dollar for every leader who has said to me in an exasperated tone, “I don’t understand, I sent them an email.” As a leader, you must communicate key messages frequently. Which means you must complete the communicate loop  -- you must ensure that the message sent is received. Doing so, especially as your team grows, requires communicating more frequently and in different modes, so your message is heard and drives action.

Talk less, talk later and listen more. At first this may seem contradictory to the last resolution. As with most complex things in life, balance is the key. In trying to make sure their point is made, or to stimulate a discussion, leaders will often share all of their ideas and then ask the rest of the team for input. At that point it is often too late. 

If your boss just spent ten minutes sharing their ideas, then asked for you input, how likely would you be to chime in? When you want the team’s input and ideas, you must ask questions and shut up! Let the group share their ideas as a means of team building. Be patient and give them time. If they don’t think of a key idea or piece of information, you can share it later in the conversation with greater effect. This approach also helps you listen better and be a better boss-- because it is hard to listen while you are talking! 

Focus feedback on the future. You want people to improve. In almost every case, people want to improve and do great work. Yet most workplace feedback is focused on something that can’t be changed -- the past.  If you want to be a more effective coach to your team and help them make improvements in their skills and results, give them feedback, advice and wise counsel about what they can do next time. And be sure you regularly conduct employee performance reviews.

Be a model. Your team is watching and emulating you. Are your behaviors the ones you want them exhibiting? Are your attitude, work habits, and customer focus what you want them to exhibit? Looking at the attitudes and behaviors of your team is in part like looking in the mirror. If you like what you see, great! If not, look in the mirror more carefully and recognize that the source of your frustration with other’s behavior likely starts with you. 

These resolutions remind you that you are not a just business owner thinking about a new customer, profit margin or monthly P & L -- you are also a leader. All of these small business tips, when put into practice, will make you a more effective leader and a more successful business owner too.

Like many New Year’s resolutions, this list may seem a bit daunting. Remember that they don’t necessarily require any special skills. They may require a change in mindset and most likely a change in habits. The effort involved is worth it -- for you, your team and ultimately your results.

Author Bio
Kevin Eikenberry
is a speaker, consultant speaker and bestselling author.  His latest book, co-authored with Guy Harris, is From Bud to Boss – Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership  (Jossey-Bass). You can learn more at From Bud to Boss or join their free online community for leaders.