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Tips on Leadership

Effective Leadership

  • Communicate clearly and routinely. Lay out your company goals and principles in a mission statement and keep sharing your vision with your employees.
  • Involve employees in setting objectives. Give them feedback on how they are progressing toward meeting those targets.
  • Give your people authority, then hold them accountable. But don't go after them personally when things go wrong. Find out first if the process is at fault.
  • Be accountable yourself. Install an advisory board or executive team to help you make good strategic decisions and give you feedback on your own performance.
  • Be trustworthy and extend trust to your employees. That will help you earn their loyalty and strengthen your company.

Creating an Innovative Environment

  • Show your employees that you think of innovation as an ongoing process. Some ideas will work and many won't. Keep experimenting.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Innovation is a collaborative process.
  • Be open to "accidents," the unexpected connections that spark new ideas. Inspiration comes from everywhere-often from outside your own field.
  • Draw on your own employees-they know the company's problems and goals best. This is probably one time you don't need outside consultants.
  • Be patient. Creativity can't be hurried.

Empowering Your Employees

  • Organize an orientation session; answer the most frequently asked questions and walk employees through solving problems common to your business.
  • Provide employees with the history behind procedures and policies. Background is essential for good decision making.
  • Furnish the necessary resources. Whether it is a list of your contacts or where to find appropriate forms, give your employees the opportunity to succeed.
  • Teach employees where to turn when they can't solve a problem; always going to the president should not be the solution.
  • Learn to delegate. Delegating tasks will build confidence and teach employees the necessary steps to follow in your business.

Managing Yourself

  • Recognize when you've outrun your abilities. When one entrepreneur saw that her skills were not adequate to manage her company, she hired a president to handle day-to-day operations.
  • Get a CEO coach. Skilled consultants can help you learn how to take your company to the next level. SCORE can help.
  • Open yourself to being transformed. Listen, really listen, to employees. Let go of old notions of leadership (managing by fear, for example).
  • Be self-aware. Many business owners say self-awareness is essential to understanding what leadership style works for you.
  • Be a servant leader. Consider it your responsibility to serve employees and customers.

Teaching Employees to "Own" Their Work

  • Include them in long- and short-term planning efforts.
  • Ask for their input on projects for which they are held responsible.
  • Include them on top-level discussions, conferences and meetings when appropriate.
  • Allow them to byline the work they wrote or to speak at the presentation they helped prepare.
  • Help them to become more vested in the work by asking for their opinion. Ask what, if anything, should be done to make the next project easier.

What Employees Want from You as a Leader

  • Employees want to trust you and you to trust them. Begin by being trustworthy and extending trust.
  • Employees want good two-way communication. Begin by being a good listener.
  • Employees want to be challenged. Set forth your vision and goals clearly and then let your workers exercise their creativity and authority in meeting your goals.
  • Employees want accountability. Not only should you hold them accountable for their own performance but you should measure your own performance as well.
  • Employees want recognition. Offer praise and express appreciation at every opportunity.