As a business owner you have to wear many hats in the course of running a successful business: Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR, …and so on. But particularly in smaller businesses, the most important one gets forgotten – you have to be a leader. It’s not just about what you do, it’s not just about logical steps, it’s about the person you choose to BE from moment to moment and day to day. Are you the kind of leader that YOU would be inspired to follow? To help you get into good leadership habits, follow the six keys to a winning team.

  1. Strong Leadership
  2. Common Goal
  3. Rules of The Game
  4. Action Plan
  5. Support Risk-Taking
  6. 100% Involvement and Inclusion
  7. Continuous Improvement

1. Strong Leadership

Definitions of strong leadership are many and varied, but I’d start by asking a question: Would people follow you if you weren’t paying them? In fact, would people pay to follow you as their leader? Maybe not, but it’s an interesting test. As a strong leader, you need to know where you’re going, be able to articulate it clearly and with a passion so that others are enrolled in the idea and inspired. You need to be seen to have confidence and determination and to hold firm to strong principles even when the going gets tough.

2. Common Goal

You can’t lead people anywhere unless you know where you’re going. There needs to be a clear goal or vision that everyone knows. If they have to go and look it up in the company handbook – it may as well not exist. Everyone has to relate to it, to know how it will benefit them? Imagine everyone is hearing you tell them the goal and silently asking “What’s In It For Me?”. And everyone needs to know what their role is – their contribution – in achieving the common goal. If I came into your office and asked everyone to tell me the common goal, and to each tell me what they are responsible for doing toward it – would they all be able to tell me without hesitation?

3. Rules of The Game

In any organisation there needs to be a widely understood set of rules and they need to be in writing so that there’s no scope for misunderstandings. I recommend these exist in every business, not necessarily as a poster on the walls (though it can be), but neither should it be buried in a 50-page employee handbook that no one’s opened since it was handed to them. Perhaps 10-30 rules that every employee agrees to abide by. It could include the attitudes to customers and other staff, a promise to be on time, and perhaps a commitment to the common goal.

4. Action Plan

As the saying goes “Positive thought without positive ACTION leads to positively nothing!”. There needs to be a series of cohesive plans that cover the long-term (3-5 years), the current year, the current quarter, and the current week. At the detailed individual level, it’s good for people to know what the plan is for today! Needless to say – today’s plan might be very brief and expressed verbally while the long-term plan must be in writing.

5. Support Risk-Taking

It can be tough to let people take risks, but the alternative where you micro-manage every decision and every action is a far worse alternative. It’s important to encourage and support your team in taking considered risks. And when something goes wrong – and it will – you need to say well done for trying! Yes, I know that can be hard. Ensure that the lesson is learned and that next time the right actions will be taken. But if you want to move quickly and grow, there are going to be a few mistakes along the way. 100% Involvement and Inclusion

6. 100% Involvement and Inclusion

Involving people on a ‘need to know’ basis doesn’t work. You can’t keep people continuously inspired and motivated by telling them the minimum. Let everyone know WHY things need to be done, and what the benefits are, not just WHAT. Get everyone feeling involved and ensure that there’s a culture where they feel valued, feel listened to, and feel they can make a difference.

7. Continuous Improvement

No business can stand still, the world progresses, technology improves, a business is either growing and improving or it’s dying. The people – rather the team – are what make the business, so every team member must also be improving. I often say that the rate at which a company grows is dependent upon the average rate at which the team improves. Every team member should have a personal development plan that they refer to and check progress toward regularly – not just at an annual appraisal. And the organisation needs an improvement plan too, which the senior leadership team coordinates and reviews progress toward regularly.