Part #1: 5 Leadership Tips for business owners

written by Sarah Colgate

Business Tips for 2024

March 8, 2024

There are thousands of leadership books available, many of which I have read so I have pulled together a handful of helpful tips for you to improve your leadership skills. 

My version of leadership is showing up for your team, embodying the values of the business and being prepared to get stuck in and support your team. 

I hope you find these easy tips practical.

1. Learn to lead by example

A good leader is one who leads by example and does what they expect everyone else to do. If you expect your team to be hard workers, then you should be a hard worker too. By practising what you preach, you earn the respect and loyalty of your team, and before long, you’ll see that they’re following your example.

At some point in their careers, everyone has had a boss who has asked them to do something they don’t usually do, such as come in early for a meeting, and then the boss was late for it. Having the “do as I say” attitude doesn’t make you likeable and doesn’t earn you the respect of your team.

At Aquaduck our busiest times were always school holidays and public holidays. At those times I worked behind the front desk with a member of the management team. It was our way of showing the team we would put in the hours and provide great service to our customers just like they did. Many times a staff member would say to me how much they appreciated me putting in the effort to work alongside them and support them in busy times. 

There were a lot of times with my young family and my husband also working driving the Aquaduck that it was not convenient for me to work school holidays and weekends with the team. However I made it a priority over Christmas and Easter so the team knew I valued them and what they were doing for me as the owner.  We also had great fun working together and I enjoyed getting to know the staff better too.

2. Be goal-oriented.

Running your own business can be demanding and draining. Often all the little things pile up and you feel like there is no way forward. It’s like a strong head wind pushing you backwards. I know this because I have experienced it over and over again. 

To get yourself out of this situation, start focusing on the end result or goal you are aiming for.  Not everything can be solved at once but by focusing your efforts on a solution for one problem, then the next and the next.

Obviously the urgent ones need to be addressed first. If you are not able to get to these or you don’t have a solution, pull the team in and ask for their assistance. This will show your team you need them, it will also show them that this business is a safe place to share vulnerabilities and that everyone needs help from time to time. 

Once the urgent issues have been solved. Identify the easy wins and look to delegate some of the easy issues, asking your team what solutions they may have. Give them the opportunity to solve some problems and contribute in a positive way. 

So instead of worrying and complaining about the issues you have, focus on the objectives and then turn your  energies toward creating a plan and strategy to achieve those objectives. 

An effective leader prioritises issues, identifies their own strengths and weaknesses, engages their team and creates a collaborative working environment.

3. Take responsibility.

As the business owner the ultimate responsibility lies with you. Own it and acknowledge it, also ensure you can identify weaknesses in your business and look at ways you can improve those processes. 

When things go wrong or don’t go according to plan take a look at why that happened. Where the responsibility lies and why that staff member or department hasn’t taken responsibility in preventing the issues. 

Instead of pointing fingers and playing the blame game, take responsibility for the team’s actions and their consequences. By being willing to take responsibility, you prove that you’re worthy of the trust and respect of your team. Then get the team together and look at how the processes or roles can be changed to prevent things going wrong in future. 

If there is a training issue take a note, update your training manuals and ensure you communicate with your staff on ways to improve. 

4. Share the glory

When the team has wins, secure business or get great reviews, share the glory with your team. Acknowledge a job well done, congratulate them and where possible reward them. By commending your staff and encouraging them to keep doing a great job, it builds a culture of shared success. 

A leader is only as good as the team behind them. By sharing the glory, an effective leader can earn the admiration and respect of the team. 

In every business I have run we have celebrated the great results. Whether it was a white board in the lunchroom, posting reviews on a whatsapp chat or giving monthly team member prizes, celebrations are a must and show the team how much I valued them. 

I also ensured we had incentives where possible. So if the tour guides at Aquaduck sold a certain dollar value of merchandise I gave them a percentage of the sales. If the driver guides on Southern Cross Tours got 5 great reviews I gave them a gift voucher. These were easy for us to do and a great way to celebrate our team.

5. Know how to develop a team.

I have to say developing a team is harder now than it has ever been. The reason I say that is in the past you had time to work with your team, build relationships and build a strong team culture. Now unfortunately the demands of business are bigger, there is a lot more required by Fair Work around employment standards and legalities to keep up with in addition I don’t feel staff are as patient with management or owners as they used to be. Often staff need immediate results, recognition as well as great benefits before they step up.So having the ability to build a team is not that easy and is a never ending job for an owner or manager. Ensure you know that going in and don’t judge yourself when you get it wrong and make mistakes.

Working with people I believe is one of the biggest challenges for business owners. 

To start building your team you need effective training, teaching or coaching. The team will not be able to achieve the goals of the business without this training. Start there. Put training manuals in place for each role within the business. Ensure they are clear and concise. Get feedback and input from the team currently doing those roles. Encourage them to add, edit and update the training manuals as things change. 

Developing a team also involves knowing your people. Look at their strengths and weaknesses. Ask them how they feel about certain aspects of the business and their abilities to do different tasks. Ask them what they want to do in the business and what they feel good about doing, know what they want from their work and what they want in terms of development. 

Now build your team around giving people roles and tasks that they want and feel good about doing. I know we can’t always give everyone what they want but if we can give them the majority of tasks they want to do often they will be happy to do the other tasks without complaint because they recognise you have done your best to work with them. This is guaranteed to help you build a stronger team that wants to be there and wants to achieve a great result. 

Conclusion

As a business owner, leadership is essential. The concepts of being a leader are simple and straightforward however I know that the reality is not so easy. We have so much pil8ng on top of us that we often are not able to lead our teams effectively, so I suggest you put some time aside each week to build your leadership skills and those of your team. Spend time looking at ways to improve your connection with your team, improve training and get to know your team. It takes time and patience, if you stick with it you will build a strong team that supports you and your business. 

I really hope these few tips help you. 

All the best 

X Sarah 

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