Leadership – It all starts with you the business owner
As the leader you are the driver of the culture in your business
You are the person who will create, drive and develop the company culture. This is not something you can delegate to a senior manager or another member of staff. You have to lead. There’s no way you can delegate the responsibility. You can share it but you need to drive it.
There has been so much written about leadership, there are so many attributes that are needed to become a good leader. My focus is on the skills you need as a leader to engage employees and create that great culture.
To ensure your culture becomes a business asset you need to create a culture that is going to live on after you have left the business. This is especially important if you are planning to exit your business. Building the culture takes time and commitment. Only people who have a real passion to make this happen will succeed. Once the company values and behaviours have been defined then you have to live them. You have to walk the talk. That can be very hard for some people. You can’t expect employees to live the values if you don’t.
If you want to create a great place to work and a company where people are queuing up to come and work for you then you have to be a great leader and role model. I am sure like me you have experienced leaders who are excellent with words. They can motivate you and inspire you. Then you spot them a few weeks later doing the opposite of what they said. The problem is that their actions don’t match their words. You know that old saying ‘Don’t do as I do, do as I say’.
I never said this was going to be easy
It’s not just in the workplace either that you need to live the values and walk the talk it’s in your private life too. You never know who is watching you or who you might meet when you are out and about. Your behaviours need to be congruent with your values. To be honest if you are the sort of person that behaves differently outside of the workplace then there is very little point in trying to create a great workplace culture which is different to you. You must be true to your own values. This is why it’s important that your personal values are aligned to the company values, 3 otherwise it will never work. You will be in conflict with your values. Culture is hard work and continuous. If you think you just need to come up with a purpose, and values and pop them all on a poster then forget it. It won’t work.
As the leader you must walk the talk. If you are not seen to be buying into and living the culture then your employees won’t either. The focus here is on ‘seen’. I know I’ve said this before but I’m going to say it again, adding words to a poster on a wall and talking about values at company meetings is not enough.
- How are you demonstrating the company values?
- What do employees see you do that demonstrates you are living the values?
- Are your behaviours congruent with the values?
- How often are you communicating the values?
- Are you making decisions based on the values?
Every piece of communication that you send out needs to have some reference back to the values. Everything in the business needs to be based on the values. I hope you are getting the message here. As a business owner this can make decision making easier. It’s very easy to be distracted by the next nice new shiny thing or idea. It might look exciting; you could give it a try. Wait, stop.
Does it match the company values?
Is it aligned to the company purpose?
If you answered no to the questions then you have your answer. Decision made, don’t get distracted by things that are not aligned to your company purpose. By walking away from short term gains that are not aligned to your purpose shows you have a strong commitment to your purpose. Making values-based decisions sends a strong message about the importance of your values, purpose and the integrity of your leadership.
Sometimes as a leader you can make assumptions that people understand what’s happening. Because you understand what’s going on you think that everyone else understands too. You need to ensure all your communication is clear on what you are trying to achieve and that employees understand where they fit into that. If they really don’t understand what’s going on, you’re not going to get the engagement. Employees might have questions they want to ask you so be open to answering those questions.
You need to give praise and recognition to employees when they do a good job and this needs to be linked to a value. The same can be said when an employee is underperforming. Link this back to a value too. Some people find this easier as they don’t like confrontation. By linking the poor performance or behaviour to a company value removes the personal aspect.
Get a coach
As the business owner and leader if you don’t have a coach you’re seriously undermining your potential. Now I know that this is a bold statement to make, but it’s something I’ve personally experienced and passionately believe. I’m certain my business would look entirely different if I hadn’t invested in regular coaching over the years. Plus, I know the difference that even just a handful of coaching sessions makes to my clients.
I’m not saying that you can’t be successful without a coach. That definitely isn’t the case and I’m sure you’ve met people at the top of their game who’ve achieved amazing things with little help. But these people are the exception.
The fact is most successful people have a coach. Just one look at the sporting world and you can see this to be true.
Coaching is beneficial at any stage of your business journey. For example, if you’re just starting out, you’ll find the right coach will become a trusted sounding board to help you get direction, focus, and clarity. In comparison, if you’ve been in business a few years, a coach can give you help you reassess your direction and clarify your future path.
It needs to be the right coach. What’s more, the right coach will hold you to account. If you say that you’ll do something and you don’t, the right coach won’t let you get away with sorry excuses and explanations. That’s because these excuses keep you small and stuck. Implementation and action kick-starts your progress and takes you to the place you need to be – and that’s what your coach will motivate you to do.
A coach will challenge you and encourage you to answer the really hard questions. A good coach will be able to see beneath the surface because they’ll read your body language and the subconscious cues that you’re trying to hide.
The benefits of coaching
First of all you should expect a return on investment. Just like your other business investments, coaching should deliver tangible deliverable’s. These are likely to be related to how you feel – but more importantly, what you’re able to deliver in your business.
You should also expect to develop a better understanding of yourself, as you increase your self- awareness. You’ll find that your comfort zone will expand as you successfully try things and you’ll have a feeling of being more successful and more capable. You may also find that your goals get bigger as you come to realise just how much you are really capable of achieving.
Feedback on your behaviour is key as a leader and often no one in your business will give you really honest feedback but a good coach will.
What is a 360° assessment
As a leader it can be difficult getting feedback on your behaviours. Employees maybe frightened to speak up in case they lose their job, feel intimidated or don’t know how to approach you. Not many employees will tell the boss that their behaviours are not living the values but they may think it.
A 360° assessment will help you understand how other people see you as a leader. You will receive a report and discover your greatest strengths and areas for development. If you are serious about being a great leader then I highly recommend it.
A 360° assessment is usually completed on line by you, your peers and direct reports and is anonymous. Everyone is given the same questions to answer. There are numerous reports available; the one I use is Everything DiSC. Depending on which assessment you choose there is often a space to write comments. The scores are then calculated and you will receive a report showing how you see yourself compared to how your peers and direct reports see you.
A coach will then be able to support you as you start to act on the results of the 360°. It’s important that you do act on this otherwise you maybe be seen as weak by those that contributed. There is no point in doing this if you are not going to take the feedback and make changes.
Building a great culture starts with you the leader.
- Reflect on your actions and behaviour each day.
- List three things where your behaviour demonstrates the values.
- In what areas are you not demonstrating the behaviours? Why? What can you do about this?
- Find the right coach for you.
- Arrange a 360° assessment.