Keeping the Team Intact, on Target
At this time of Thanksgiving, let me start by wishing you many blessings for the holiday season and the year ahead.
We all have much to be thankful for, and it is very special if we are able to express our thanks with family and friends around a well-prepared meal.
A successful owner of a small business, particularly one with employees, needs to be both a leader and a manager and to perform both roles well.
Leading an organization and managing the organization are two different things, but many times they are confused. Perhaps the best distinction comes from the highly regarded management expert Peter Drucker. He once said, "Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things."
A business owner has already demonstrated leadership qualities by taking the initiative to start a small business and committing to its success. But translating that vision into a culture that will inspire and motivate employees to do their best is not always easy. However, like almost every other business skill, leadership skills can be learned.
The foundation of leadership is a positive attitude - the conviction of the leader that he or she and the chosen team can do whatever it takes to accomplish the goals. But the challenge is to not let personal confidence cloud reality. The leader may have some good ideas, but employees and advisers may have better ones, plus information and perspectives that haven't been considered.
That's why Rieva Lesonsky, founder and CEO of GrowBiz Media, advises against surrounding oneself with people who always agree.
"Why bother to put together a staff of intelligent, talented people if you're not going to listen to them?" she asks. "Enjoy the debate, and listen to all sides and opinions."
Good leadership is also a product of learning as much as possible about what motivates the employees. One employee may thrive on finding creative ways to solve problems, while another appears to excel in a structured environment.
"You don't have to get too personal," Lesonsky advises, "but by understanding the issues that may affect each person's job performance, you'll be better able to motivate and lead them."
The best leaders are also the best communicators, especially when it comes to establishing expectations for each employee's performance.
"Good people stay when their motivators match the company's," says entrepreneur and author Barry Moltz. "If they get out of balance, the person leaves or is fired."
That's why frequent performance evaluations are so important, Moltz adds.
"You and the employee can share perceptions of his/her progress, see how well they match up with each other's expectations, and where adjustments may be necessary," he says.
Leadership also means being able to share bad news with employees.
"Withholding information is one of the biggest mistakes companies make," Moltz says. "With so many information resources and ways to access them, you have to assume that nothing is really secret anymore. So share as much as you can, and remember that employees appreciate honesty, and the opportunity to help. Get them involved in finding a solution."
You can learn more about leadership, management and other small business skills at SCORE, a nationwide nonprofit association of experienced business people who provide free, confidential business counseling to small business owners. The Sandhills Chapter is active in counseling, mentoring and presenting free business seminars.
If you wish to speak to SCORE about your business, please register as a client by entering your information at www.edmisscore.org/0364, and one of our counselors will contact you.
In addition to counseling by appointment, the Sandhills chapter of SCORE has drop-in service, for those who have registered, from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Fridays at the Moore County Chamber of Commerce building on U.S. 15-501 in Southern Pines. The phone number is (910) 692-3926.
More information on SCORE's counseling activity can be found at the Sandhills SCORE website, www.sandhillsscore.org.
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