Effective leaders always look for ways to be better every day. You have to only work on yourself but your team while remaining positive despite the handles that may come along. And every leader has the chance to become better regardless of their past mistakes. It starts by deciding what deserves your time and attention then focus on the things that you're good at.
We asked entrepreneurs and business owners how they improve as leaders and here are the insightful responses.
#1- Consistent feedback from the team
First, improving as a leader is critical in building a lasting business or high-performance team. We all have our shortcomings and any decent leader is aware of at least some of them. But getting consistent feedback from your team is where I find tangible ways to improve. However, simply asking an employee ‘how can I help' or ‘how can I improve' is difficult without trust. People are afraid to tell their manager about their blind spots, unless there is real trust and confidence that there won't be consequences. Second, I like to listen to business podcasts like ‘How I Built This' to hear about how other leaders built their company, and hopefully pick up some tips that way.
Thanks to Kuba Poraj-Kuczewski, Hello Krystof!
#2- 80/20 Rule
As a Continuous Improvement Manager, I follow the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule, 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. I do this for both my business and personal development. On the business side, I focus on the top 3 to 5 things causing me to lose the most money, for example the highest warranty or scrap issues based on either cost or customer satisfaction. My team then leads Six Sigma projects to determine the root cause of the problems, sometimes solving problems we didn't even know we had. From a personal stand point, I perform a yearly Start, Stop, and Continue exercise (I do this with my work team as well) to determine the biggest items holding me back, asking what do I need to Start, Stop and Continue doing to be more successful as a husband, father and manager. I then focus on improving my top 3 to 5 things by creating SMART, (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based) goals, for example, lose 15 pounds by July 1st, show gratitude at least 5 times each day, and spend 1 hour each day either learning or creating something new. These activities provide me with consistent continuous improvement both professionally and personally.
Thanks to Michael Arnold, Protean Quality Systems!
#3- Stay out there
One of the main things that I do is stay out there. It's important not to just sit behind the desk, but to get in the trenches with your staff. By being involved and inquisitive, you're inherently going to look for ways to improve and better your own brand. It also provides an organic opportunity for your team to provide real-time feedback as you collectively work towards the next phase of your business.
Thanks to Jeff Webb, Varsity Brands!
Very often people in positions of leadership take credit for the work of others. Continuously show praise and acknowledgment where credit is due and build a team on the bases of trust. If you show acknowledgment for the good work of someone under you they will respect that you have the teams best interest. Unlike claiming all the glory for a task well-done show appreciation for the dedication of your team this will encourage respect for hard work. You will grow exponentially as a leader when a team is able to trust you and respect you for qualifying the teams effort.
Thanks to Sanem Ahearn, Colorescience.com!
#6- Starts with personal health
By exercising, getting a good nights sleep, and eating as healthy as I can, I come into the office refreshed every morning. Building up a reserve of bonus energy has been such a useful asset when dealing with unexpected business hurdles or when going the extra mile to get a job done. I feel like my extra energy and healthy lifestyle example motivates my employees to do their best work and may even motivate a few of them to pursue similar habits. As a leader, I believe your job is to serve as the foundation for your employees. A house is only as strong as its foundation, and by putting a personal emphasis on my personal health I can ensure that my foundation is always rock solid. With this strong base, I have the time and energy to pursue other personal improvement opportunities. For example, I make it a goal to learn something new every week, spend quality, ‘non-work' time with my employees, and brainstorm ways to simplify a company process.
Thanks to Alex McGraw, Plaintiff Relief!
#7- Combination of reading and learning
I started a global branding and marketing firm 18 years ago. It takes effort and a commitment to excellence to continually improve as you move up the ladder and especially when you get to lead. I do not think there is one silver bullet, I use a combination of reading and learning online and off, attending conferences and talks, networking, finding mentors and listening to all feedback good and bad. I have found that I learn more from the bad and tough situations in my career than when things go smoothly.
Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!
#8- Two ways
To serve my team to the best of my ability, I’m always looking for ways to improve my leadership skills. I read one book a week and try to focus many of those on areas where I feel I need to grow as a leader. I also have one-on-one meetings each month with employees that serve as two-way conversations to get unfiltered feedback on my performance. These meetings are vital to understanding what impact I have had that month as a leader and reveals the areas I need to focus my time on.
Thanks to Paige Velasquez, Zilker Media!
#9- Networking, collaborations and reading
I am an avid reader and consumer of marketing industry content. Our industry moves so quickly that if you don't keep on top of it, you may find yourself mourning over missed opportunities. So, in addition to reading books, blogs, case studies, and whitepapers, I am constantly networking and collaborating with other industry professionals. Hearing different perspectives from other business leaders keeps me in the loop and encourages me to move beyond my comfort zone.
Thanks to Bernard May, National Positions!
#10- Active listening
I rely on a strategy of Active Listening for continuous improvement of my leadership skills. I know that in order to get what I need, I have to first respond to what others need. By actively listening to comprehend the needs of others I can be more responsive and effective in providing the necessary information, resources, and support. This is not a new strategy, but something I believe is not a common habit with many leaders, nor people in general. Practice active listening skills to improve communication, gain trust, earn respect and strengthen professional relationships. Leading is listening.
Thanks to David E. Nielson, DNA Worldwide, LLC!
#11- Podcasts and books for learning
One of my favorite tips for continuous improvement is to always be learning. It may sound trite but leaders are readers. I personally set a goal to read a new book each week that helps me grow. When we stop learning then we stop being open to growth. If books aren't your thing then podcasts are my next best recommendation. I am in the car a lot driving between client sites so a good quality podcast on leadership is an excellent way to infuse my drive time with learning. My favorite podcasts are Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod; Lead to Win with Michael Hyatt; Story Brand by Donald Miller; Work Life with Adam Grant; and How I Built This with Guy Raz.
Thanks to TyAnn Osborn, Osborn Consulting Group, LLC!
#12- Turning unproductive time into productive time
One major factor to focus on to improve your leadership is to constantly be working on developing yourself. Your success and business will only grow to the point that you do and raising your leadership lid is a major aspect of this. A strategy I've used over the years to work on my leadership development is to take advantage of your unproductive time and turn it into productive time. For example, if you work out on a regular basis or have a long commute to work, you can turn this downtime into productive time by listening to audio-books focused on leadership. You're going to be driving or at the gym anyway, might as well combine that non-work time into something that can improve your leadership skills and business. One of my favorite leadership development authors I'd recommend checking out is John C. Maxwell.
Thanks to Mike MacDonald
#13- Casual conversations with team members
As a business owner, I'm not usually on the front lines. So as much as I think I know what day to day operations feel like for my team, there's no replacing getting direct input and feedback from employees in what they think would make our company run more smoothly and what they think I could be doing better. I make it a point to have one on one conversations with as many of my team members as possible — we keep it casual: a walk around the block, coffee, or lunch. Getting honest feedback on how I and our company can be better has been one of the most helpful change agents I could imagine.
Thanks to Nikki Bisel, Seafoam Media!
#14- Following a daily routine
Being an entrepreneur since the age of 18 the most important thing I learnt is to keep learning small things everyday. As I run two eCommerce portals and a digital agency my day starts with browsing my top 3 competitors websites for 15 mins, followed by browsing my websites for 15 mins. If you follow this routine, I will not be surprised if you are swamped with new ideas for enhancing your website experience almost everyday. Being in technology I believe that we consistently need to be on top of our game. Majority part of my day includes reading news, case studies and people’s experiences in my business category. I fish for these mostly on Medium, Techcrunch and Mashable. Attending live seminars and expos motivates and propels me to think differently. Through my corporate schedule, I make it a point to try and meet a new business owner or a decision maker every week. It feels incredible and fascinating to hear amazing stories and learn from them. Ideas and inspirations have always come to me from the unexpected and so for me, there's always something or someone to look forward to.
Thanks to Sagar Kogeka, Webwingz!
I continuously strive to improve my ability to completely delegate a task. It's one thing to give a team member an assignment, another thing entirely to trust them to see it through from beginning to end. The way I began working on this skill was to start small – delegate something you know won't threaten your company's well-being if it accidentally gets mishandled. By starting small this way, you won't be tempted to look over your team member's shoulder to correct every slight error. Two years into the company, I now am able to step back from payday, building our outreach lists and conducting email outreach, and a lot ofhands-on production of our service offering. I still review our finances closely, monitor the results of our email outreach and offer suggestions to tweak it, and remain the final point of contact with clients (so, I have the option to review quality before submitting our work). However, I can safely say that I am making progress in terms of delegating! The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging you have a problem… Well, I did – and, I took small, manageable steps to correcting it. It's a process, but I'm slowly learning to hand off my baby to team members who have long-deserved these opportunities.
Thanks to Greg Heilers, Jolly Content!
#16- Sharing goals with close team/family members
One of the learnings I'm carrying forward is to focus on making specific goals tied to measurement. It took me a few years (and a few failures) to truly grasp the importance of this, but a goal that lacks specificity (including a plan, metrics and a timeline) is generally a goal unfulfilled. Also don't be afraid to share your goals with those close to you–your team. In my case that's also been my family. Also, don't be afraid to go outside of your network to ask for help. It's a great way to get new solutions and open wider doors. We often keep our resolutions and goals to ourselves, not realizing that we can benefit from someone holding us accountable, encouraging us along the way or helping reach the goal faster and further, together.
Thanks to Richelieu Dennis, Sundial Brands!