10 Ways To Improve Your Leadership Skills (To Improve Your Company)

August 17, 2015By
Entrepreneur Leadership

Are you moving into a new phase as an entrepreneur? Here are tips for improving your leadership skills.

Many entrepreneurs start out as a one-person show.

The idea is there. The testing is there.

Then something is picked up on. The formula is found and things start moving forward.

In order to scale and grow a business the entrepreneur brings on team members whether it’s people in an office or people working remotely (getting more and more common).

As this growth happens the responsibility of the entrepreneur changes. The tasks become more about leadership instead of working on the daily tasks related to delivering the product to the customer.

So in this post we’re going to look at ways entrepreneurs can improve leadership skills as a way to improve their company.

1. Learn To Listen Better

As an entrepreneur it can be easy to get tunnel vision with what you’re doing and what you’re trying to accomplish. You really need that kind of focus in the early days when you’re the only one doing the work and the only one with the vision.

It’s also important in that stage of the business to have a narrow focus. You’ll hear what others are saying. Many will have some advice. You’ll be reading, but you’ll develop filters for what to take in and what to ignore.

This can lead to the ability to tune people out, but as a leader it’s important to hear what your team is saying. You can’t tune them out as much as you have done with other people as you’ve built the business.

Listening and understanding is the new stage. It’s about hearing issues and looking for ways to move forward so your team can succeed.

And one final point, your team members won’t always tell you with words. It might be with body language or with their habits. You’ll have to pick up on how they’re feeling.

2. Understand Motivations

An aspect of leadership is understanding what motivates each member on your team. You’re looking at their personal motivations.

Understanding what motivates people allows you to pick people that fit with your culture. And once they’re on your team it allows you to harness their motivations to provide the best work for themselves and for your company.

It’s tricky because each person on your team won’t be motivated by the same things as you. It’s really hard to find someone that will be as committed to your business as you, the founder. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use each person’s motivation for the benefit of the business (and for them).

3. Learn To Deal With Different Personalities

This is another challenge of a growing business. When you’re on your own you’re only dealing with yourself (which can be difficult). When you’re dealing with a growing business you’ll have different personalities.

And that’s a good thing. It’s good for diversity and to see things from different angles. You don’t really want a team of robots that think exactly like you.

The challenge is learning to deal with different personalities. You’ll have extroverts and introverts. You’ll have aggressive people and those that are meek.

Each can bring something to the team, but learning how each responds to feedback and challenges will be critical to the success of the business.

4. Create A Vision For Culture

 

A vision for the culture of the company is how you want the team to look. It’s how you want the human dynamic to work within your company. It’ll drive the type of people you’ll want to bring tot he team.

Knowing the culture you want will allow for better hiring whether you’re doing the hiring or whether you bring someone on to do the hiring.

Culture is not necessarily ping pong tables and beers in the fridge.

It’s the way people work, what motivates them, what they’re motivated to achieve and how they work with others on the team.

5. Create A Common Company Vision

Now you’re in the stage of your entrepreneurship where vision is crucial. Maybe it’s not the fact that you have a vision. You’ve probably had one since the early days of the business.

But now comes the time to share the vision with your team.

Wherever you want to take your company you have to articulate those goals to your team. It’s important because most people want to know where they’re going. They want to know what they’re working toward. They want to know if they want to go where you’re working to go.

Create the vision. Think big and make sure everyone on the team understands it or work until they do.

6. Learn Mediating Skills

Learning to deal with conflict will be important. You can’t expect people to work things out on their own. You can hire so that is the case most of the time, but there will still be instances where a mediator will be critical.

We’re just starting football season in the US. There is no team in the NFL where every player on every team gets along well all the time or even at all.

But the best coaches and the best leaders on the team know how to get disagreeing personalities to at least work through their differences so they can get back to working toward the same goal.

It gets back to each person’s motivation. Focus on what each person wants. Find the common ground and get them focusing on that and how they can help each other achieve goals even if they don’t like each other.

7. Stay Up-To-Date With Technology And Trends

You don’t need to jump into every new technology and trend. But it is important to stay abreast of what’s out there and what people are doing.

This is good for your business because opportunities may come about that you can take advantage of. They won’t come around often, but you always want to be paying attention.

But this is also important so you can discuss strategy with your team. You won’t be the most knowledgable person on every topic, but it’s important that you can have discussions about the things your team cares about. They’ll want to come to you with their ideas and they’ll want your input.

8. Stay Young

Butch Harmon is perhaps the most well-known coach in golf. He’s coached some of the best including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and now even Rickie Fowler.

Harmon was asked in an interview what one of his keys to success was and he said it was to stay young. He meant that he liked surrounding himself with young people. Not all the time and not for everything, but more than others might do as they get into their 60s and 70s.

Rickie Fowler is a good example of that. He’s a precocious 20-something, but Butch and Rickie have found success. Rickie brings a youthful enthusiasm to Butch and Butch and bring wisdom to Rickie.

As a business leader it’s important to stay in touch with young people, what they care about and what their motivations are. You want to do this with everyone, but as we get older it’s easier to lose that touch with the next generation. It takes work and effort, but those that do seem to succeed in the long run.

9. Be Willing To Change

Leaders aren’t willing to make changes on a whim, but they are willing to make changes. They look for ways to improve and when they see that every instinct tells them to make a change they do so.

You would think that would be obvious, but when you’re used to doing everything yourself and building that confidence in what you’ve done it can be difficult to make changes. It can be scary. You kind of need to take a dive and trust that you’ll grow with certain changes.

The Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy made a change after the 2014 NFL season. He had been calling all the plays on offense for his entire tenure, but made the decision to give up that responsibility heading into the 2015 season.

He’s considered the change for a long time. He didn’t make it on a whim. It was calculated, but it wasn’t a change that others would have necessarily been able to make.

When you have success it’s hard to change even if you think (know) it’s for the best.

10. In The End It’s About Results

Finally, leaders seem to have an uncanny ability to focus on the results. They are able to remove their own emotion from decisions and focus on the results.

The results often are about money, but not always. There can be restrictions on money like foregoing some growth opportunities to keep the business in the right moral direction or something like that.

But usually it’s about results and it’s up to the leader of the business to know what the desired results are and to be able to make decisions based on results even when emotions are running high.

Conclusion

It’s exciting to be entering the stage of entrepreneurship where you’re growing more as a leader. It’s something many entrepreneurs get excited about and have dreamed about.

But the transition is difficult. It’s hard to move from working in the business to becoming the leader of the business. It’s a lot of pressure and you’ll be dealing with more people.

But you can do it and be successful. Hopefully the tips in this post will help.