Are You a Great Leader? 7 Ways To Improve Your Leadership Skills This Year
Most new companies arise to solve specific problems that their founders have intimate, expert-level knowledge about. If your business depends on your specialized skills, you might worry that you lack the broader portfolio of soft and hard skills necessary to run a thriving business.
There’s a formidable list of skills every entrepreneur should have, and not all of them can be learned in a classroom. Some require on-the-job training, hard-won experience, or both.
Fortunately, every entrepreneur can take steps to improve his or her leadership skills without returning to school full-time or stepping aside from day-to-day management duties. These seven steps will boost your leadership quotient this year.
1. Take Notes on Your Interactions With Your Team
Document every significant interaction with members of your team, such as closed-door meetings and face-to-face coaching sessions. Use these notes to give yourself a periodic leadership review, just as you’d examine a subordinate’s performance.
2. Turn to a Trusted Mentor
Find a mentor who’s wrestled with leadership questions in the past. The ideal pick is a more seasoned executive or business owner in the same industry (or a comparable one). Whenever you run into a leadership issue, ask your mentor if they’ve encountered it before. If they have, talk through their response.
3. Retain a Business Coach
If you don’t have ready access to a mentor, retain a business coach to provide one-on-one leadership instruction. The benefits of working with a business coach are particularly great for first-time founders and newly promoted executives, who understandably struggle with their newfound responsibilities.
4. Listen More Than You Speak
You don’t have to be the first person to speak at staff meetings or team huddles. Before jumping in with your ideas or directives, give everyone else around the table a chance to share their thoughts or lay out their deliverables. Listen to each in turn. Adjust your position on the matters at hand accordingly. Only then should you say your piece.
5. Set One “Improvement Goal” Each Week
Carefully and honestly document your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, then pick one weakness to improve each week. You don’t have to reach your target competency level during that admittedly short period—merely demonstrating progress toward the goal is enough.
6. Ask for Honest Feedback
You can always ask your employees for feedback. But how can you be sure they’re providing honest answers? Simple tips for sourcing real, insightful feedback from employees include:
Ditching anonymous funnels, such as suggestion boxes
Creating open-source, digital flow charts that allow any employee to provide ideas
Maintaining an open-door policy that strictly refuses to penalize employees who provide negative feedback
Asking follow-up questions that acknowledge employees’ concerns and lay the groundwork for actual change
Most important, take your employees’ concerns to heart and demonstrate that you’re acting on their suggestions.
7. Spend Time in Your Team’s Shoes
Every month, choose a different member of your team (with their permission) to shadow for a morning or afternoon—long enough to get a sense of what a typical day looks like, but not so long that you become burdensome. The goal here is to spend quality time seeing your organization, and the direct and indirect effects of your executive decisions, through the eyes of those who report to you.
After each shadowing session, spend some time debriefing. Ask yourself what you can do to inspire the employee you’ve just spent time with. How can you make them better at what they do?