Become a better small business leader with these 3 easy steps

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One of the biggest challenges small business owners face is also the biggest thing that will ensure their success: leadership.

Regardless of industry, most small business owners I work with have similar stories: they’re good at what they do, hate their job/boss, and think they can do better on their own. They are often right. However, when that same small business owner wants to grow and reach new levels of success (because we all know there’s a limit to reaching those levels as a one-man or one-woman show), they must more people come on board to do more work. This means they have to lead those people to get the results they want. Unfortunately, this is where many business owners fail.

So, if you’re a small business owner looking to improve your leadership skills to reach new heights, then here are three easy ways to do just that!

Related: 5 Leadership Strategies to Improve Team Performance and Grow Your Small Business

1. Become a student again

I’ve been leading for a long time and have found an approach or two that I really like. However, the people I lead are constantly changing, which means I often have to change my leadership approach. This can be annoying, but if you can do this, you will see your relationships with staff members improve dramatically. You will find that your employees will interact with you and each other at a higher level. And most importantly, you’ll see your bottom line grow over time because YOU are having a direct and positive impact on your team members with your improved leadership skills.

In the martial arts industry, there is a term we use to keep our focus in the right direction. It’s called the “white belt mentality”. Think of someone who is a white belt – they are excited to learn something new. They are willing to try and try and try until they get it right. They are willing to look unqualified and perhaps stupid in front of others while they are learning. They also understand that they have a lot to learn and never act like they know it all. You will need this white belt mentality if you really want to succeed.

So become a student again and get that “white belt mentality”. Learn as much as you can on the subject of leadership, even if you think you have a good handle on it and have your own personal style. Here are some simple steps to help you move in the right direction:

  • Find and take online courses.

  • Read at least one book a month.

  • Find and download an audiobook app to your phone.

  • Listen to as many audiobooks as you can on your commute to and from work.

  • Ask your team for feedback on your current leadership style.

  • Ask your team how they like to be coached/led.

Related: 10 Books Every Leader Should Read To Be Successful

2. Practice, practice, practice

Want to know what a black belt really is? They are white belts who just kept practicing for a long period of time. And becoming a master of leadership is just as simple. Not easy, of course – I’ll never say that! Think for a minute: Isn’t that how we all build skills in something new? We try, we fail, we try, we fail, we try, we finally succeed.

But the question arises like AND when where do you practice Well, here are some suggestions in certain areas that will help you focus your energy and efforts to achieve the greatest leadership results:

  • Monthly team meetings

  • Daily collections

  • Scheduled one-on-one meetings

  • Impromptu one-on-one meetings

  • Random check-ins with staff members when your calendar is clear

  • Providing inspirational talks at the beginning and end of all of the above

  • Giving your best when a team member is watching (aka, leading by example)

Here are some simple action items to help develop your leadership skills:

  • A pat on the back for a job well done

  • Public recognition for a job well done

  • A company/department wide email saying “good job” or “thank you”, etc.

  • Appreciating the entire team for the goals achieved

  • Using the Praise/Correct/Praise (PCP) method of leadership

    • “Nice try, Susan. Now, let’s try it this way. There, good job.”

Related: 6 Steps to Becoming a Better Leader

3. Repeat with the right expectations

In Japan, they have something called Kaizen, which translates to “incremental improvement.” In America, I heard the term “CANI” from the author Tony Robbins, which means “continuous and endless improvement”. And that’s what step three is all about: making small, incremental improvements to help you get better. Expecting huge gains in leadership skills is a great way to get frustrated and just consider giving up on it all. So, it is better to create the right expectations and look for smaller benefits. Just as a white belt would improve slightly in a round shot or side kick during any given training session, so will your driving skills.

But what happens to that same white belt when they’ve fired 10,000 side kicks? It’s the same thing that will happen to you when you practice motivational speaking and leadership skills with your staff after a solid year or so: You’ll finally get the positive results you’re looking for!

Here are some suggestions:

  • Listen to a leadership audiobook (or similar) in the car every time you drive.

  • Take one article each day or week from those books and work on just that.

  • Find/create an accountability group to keep you on this course of action.

  • Find leadership groups to join and get active.

  • Join the room and seek a leadership role somewhere.

  • Find a leader who inspires you and emulate them.

  • Join a Toastmasters group.

  • Record/video yourself giving speeches and find out what needs to be improved.

  • Create anonymous feedback forms for staff and include some coaching/leadership questions.

  • Find someone to mentor so they can become a strong leader as well.

  • Most important: Keep the white belt mentality!

Pro tip: When it comes to learning and improving in leadership, there is only one word to guide you: “better.” Don’t ask to be amazing or the best leader ever. Just look to be better than last week. You’ll feel less stress and your staff will benefit from your improved skill set! So just get “better” – like a white belt.

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