Anyone who has ever started a business knows that making it work requires a lot of effort, grit and direction. Once you’ve reached the level where you need help to grow your business and get staff in, you will find yourself in a new role. And that role is leader.
This is a big step and I know from my own experience, this is the hardest step to take. You will need to move from the person who is doing it all to the one who is helping others to do it all. It probably took you a long time to trust yourself to get it all done and now you need to trust others.
This will take most entrepreneurs out of their comfort zone. And I mean far out. Too far for many to get this right the first time. So, here are some tips from my own experiences to help you get this right.
1. Become aware of your new role
You will be stepping into a new domain as the leader of a team. In this domain your team is the core element of your business. You will need to take some time to learn the right leadership skills. Most of all you will need to accept that you have no idea how to get this right. This will set the base for learning what is needed in this role.
Very important is to understand that being a leader is a choice. You choose to take on the role as leader!
2. Learn to communicate your ideas
In your head it all sounds amazing. You can see the company growing and you’re looking forward to the amazing times to come. As a leader, you need to learn to translate this for your team.
Everybody has his or her own picture of what a great future might look like. It is your job to align this picture with the values and goals of your business. This works best if you can clearly communicate what those values and goals are. If everyone in your team gets it, their picture will adjust to fall in line. It is best to communicate this right at the start interview.
3. Be part of the team
Many business owners still have this idea that they are the boss and everyone else is beneath them. Today this doesn’t really work anymore and I for one am glad that this is changing.
In any business, there are different roles that are required to make it all work. Each role plays an important part and has it’s own responsibility on the success of the team. As a team leader, your job is to support the team and build the structure in which the team can grow and improve.
4. Prepare a space for growth
There will always be people in the team who are eager to learn more and to move into different positions of the team. It’s up to you to provide the space and structure needed to make this happen.
But be aware that this space is private space and you shouldn’t interfere and try to micro-manage anyone in your team. In this space team members can explore, make mistakes and feel safe. It is your job to guarantee that safety.
5. Build an active communication structure
As humans, we are programmed to communicate – and we don’t feel comfortable if we can’t express ourselves. As leader the only way to know how your team is doing is if this is communicated with you.
For that you need to build an active communication structure. This might look different from one organization or team to another, but without it you won’t be able to do your job as leader of the team.
6. Cultivate a growth mindset
Having a growth mindset means to understand that with the right effort and determination we can learn anything and become really good at it. It means to nurture learning before knowing. If we have a fixed mindset we believe we know something and stop developing any further. If that is challenged with change and new situations the fixed mindset retreats as its knowledge is threatened.
Creating a curious environment is a good start and as mentioned in Point 4 (above), providing a space to grow and learn will go a long way towards a growth mindset.
7. Employees first – customers second
As a leader, your job is to support your team in doing the best job they can do. And they will – if they feel that they have your support and backing when situations become difficult. This is especially true when it comes to customers.
You will always have customers that complain and many with justification. If something is wrong you need to know – and I’d rather have a customer complain than just walk away without saying a word.
But just be careful of getting into ‘Take-Over’ mode where you think you’re the only one who can – and should – deal with this complaint. Instead, help your team to deal with it and communicate this to your customers. Trust your team to do the job.
8. Train your team to become leaders
As your company grows you will need other leaders on your side. You want leaders who align with your vision and way of working. You want leaders who will treat their team the same way, with the same support and trust as you do. There is nowhere better to look for leaders than in your own team.
If you provide your team members with the opportunity to grow into team leaders themselves, then you create a massive space for them to grow. This fits well into Points 4 and 6 and builds a great and strong foundation.
The hardest part of becoming a leader is letting go!
But if you embrace this new opportunity to lead an extraordinary team and are willing to learn the skills needed you will have the time of your life. Things will go wrong. You will chose some people who don’t fit into the team and are more destructive than good, but this is part of learning to become a great leader.
The best leaders are not perfect, but they do have a growth mindset and always tell themselves “I just don’t know it all yet!”