Small Business Leadership: Manage Your Best Asset, Your People

Hands holding a sprouting plant representing small business leadership to cultivate employeesIt has been said “people make the business go around,” meaning that the right people in the right roles with the right skills, abilities, motivation, and guidance can make the difference between a thriving business and one that falls short of its full potential. People perform best if they have a leader that offers them direction, support, and values the input of each individual for their unique contributions. The best leaders understand themselves, their teams, and how utilize the talents and skills of each member and group.

In many business settings, management and leadership are different roles, but as a small business owner, you wear multiple hats. You are responsible for both leading the organization and managing the people on your team. If you do both in an effective way you will find a clear path to reaching your business goals in less time and with a lower investment of money and energy.

People are your greatest asset and the time you spend supporting them, developing them, guiding and directing them is a worthwhile investment. A strong team will help you to carry the load. They will adopt your vision and make it their own. They will use their skills for the benefit of your business. They will stay and grow with you, lowering turnover and expenses.

Focus on Key Principles of Management

As with all leadership skills, effective people management requires practice. Begin by being aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. Understand the impact you have on the ability to influence and motivate the performance of others.

Review Your Management Skills

Reflect on your leadership skills and evaluate how you think you’re doing in the following areas.

  • Organization
  • Prioritization
  • Ability to initiate projects
  • Ability to manage cross-functional personnel and teams
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem solving
  • Conflict resolution
  • Goal orientation
  • Communication

Be honest with yourself about where you are accomplished and where you need training or practice.

Know How You Are Perceived By Your Employees

This will improve your ability to connect with them. This may not always be easy information to obtain. You must ask for feedback and listen carefully to what is said and more importantly to that which leaves you with questions unanswered. Make it safe for your employees to share with you how your style impacts their engagement and performance. For example, if you have a controlling manner they may feel unwilling to exert creativity. Ask for their help in making changes that will improve performance and employee satisfaction. But be cautious — you can’t please everyone. Do your best to give the majority what they want and need.

Get to Know the People on Your Team

Learn as much as possible without violating privacy boundaries. Consider doing personality testing and sharing results so that the whole team will know and understand the interests, motivations, and tendencies of their co-workers. Having this knowledge makes it easier for you to lead and manage while helping your team work together more harmoniously.

Engage Staff Members in Your Vision

If possible it is recommended that you let them assist you in developing the full vision through planning exercises. Once the vision is set, translate the vision and goals of the organization into the language that each person can understand and embrace. Share with them the role they will play in reaching the vision and what value it will have to them. For example, if one of your vision details is to grow and expand you might explain to them that this provides them with opportunity to advance.

Set Clear Expectations for Every Person

Each person should have a specific job description, complete with function, roles, and responsibilities. Tell them how they will be measured and when. They should understand your performance management system including how their performance will be measured, when it will be measured, and how they will participate. Define any rewards or consequences that will be applied for different levels of performance. Simply put, employees are more engaged when they know their efforts will be rewarded. Even the smallest reward provides an incentive. Those rewards do not need to be monetary. Explore other ways to reward such as vacation time, titles, work space upgrades, etc.

Set Goals and Expectations

Goals that align with the company’s vision, with the expectations you have for the employee’s performance, and allow them to set goals for their career. Just as every person in your organization needs clear expectations they should have goals that align with those expectations and they should be held accountable to deliver on those goals. The desired outcome of personalized goals is better company performance and increased employee satisfaction. Goal setting should be part of the planning process. Accountability should be part of your performance management process.

Organize and Allocate Resources

This is an important component of effective people management. Making sure your employees have the resources available to perform their work is critical to their performance. Balancing workloads and encouraging employees to cross-sell, cross-train, collaborate, and fulfill their individual responsibilities is key to a vitalized and high performance team. Part of organizing resources is team-building. Building teams of employees that complement each other drives efficiency and promotes employee growth.

Successfully Lead Your Team

Use all your leadership skills to engage, encourage, develop, direct, and support every member of your staff. This includes communicating, delegating, giving and receiving feedback, coaching, influencing, motivating, empowering, empathizing, modeling, and more.

Effectively managing others is a vital role of small business owners. From the first hire to the last the way you manage the performance of your employees is a key to your small business success.

This is part seven in a series of posts on leadership. View earlier posts here.

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