4 Ways to be a better leader
At Skore, we believe in empowering others to be their absolute best. That’s why we bring to you a series of tools that you can use in your improvement journey. Here we start by gathering tips from leadership experts, career coaches, and entrepreneurs to help you unveil potential blind spots and become an even better leader.
1. Avoid the analysis paralysis trap
You are passionate about your business and have an ambitious plan in mind, but get caught up overanalyzing a bunch of data, trying to make a decision. Whether you are disrupting an existing industry or creating a new category altogether, you may struggle to find enough information to answer all of your questions so it’s easy to get stuck. More often then not, startups fail to take off for fear of not getting it right from the get-go.
In Getting to Plan B, authors John Mullins and Randy Komisar point out that “it takes fifty-eight new product ideas to deliver a single successful new product” and advise entrepreneurs learn from their original concept as quickly and inexpensively as possible and move on to an improved product or business model, which they call the plan B. Successful companies which did just that include Starbucks, PayPal and Google.
Setting milestones along the way helps to make sure you are on the right track and releases some of the pressure of a major deadline. Involving others in the decision-making process can help you gain different perspectives and allows others to develop leadership skills.
Remember that your decision is hardly final. So don’t overthink it. Otherwise, you may lose momentum. Gather as much relevant information as you can to make an educated decision. And move on.
Jeff Boss, Forbes’ contributor, former Navy SEAL and author of Navigating Chaos: How To Find Certainty in Uncertain Situations, once said:
“In the military, it doesn’t matter in which direction you choose to move when under a mortar attack, just so long as you move.”
2. Eliminate bottlenecks
Some of the things that make startups so exciting are the vibrant culture, the innovative minds and the fast pace. Lean structures push for increased efficiency — think a small group of people, each wearing multiple hats. Sounds familiar? As the company grows, so does the need for more processes, which leads to additional challenges when trying to keep agility at scale.
A leader who takes responsibility for all decisions risks slowing everything down — not to mention burning out. Empowering others is key to keeping the company moving fast and makes individuals more accountable. Tony Hsieh, Zappo’s CEO, said his team is switching “from a normal hierarchical structure to a system called Holacracy, which enables employees to act more like entrepreneurs and self-direct their work instead of reporting to a manager who tells them what to do.”
For knowledge workers, access to information is another potential bottleneck. Remote teams, working across different time zones, need to keep everyone on the same page in real time to stay competitive. Onboarding programs that pass on the legacy, culture, and resources right away enable new hires to hit the ground running.
Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek advocates for increased productivity by eliminating unnecessary steps from the workflow and automating processes. Ferriss believes that technology can dramatically improve efficiency and offers great advice in his book, along with a list of incredibly helpful tools.
3. Be transparent
Great leaders are usually great communicators. They understand their message is much more powerful when they are authentic. “In good times and bad, honesty builds trust”, says Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and President at TalentSmart.
“Great leaders know that when they stay true to who they are, people gravitate to their message. They also know the opposite happens when leaders put on an act.”
When it comes to communication, don’t be afraid to overdo it. Sharing your goals once every quarter is awesome but it is equally important to check in every now and then, giving and receiving feedback every step of the way. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road can take you there, right?
Listen to your team. Encourage participation and contribution. Emma Chilvers, expert in leadership coaching, suggests “starting off on a positive note primes the brain to adopt a more open attitude towards the forthcoming discussion — and it gets all of the voices in the room ready to contribute at the same time.” Be open to what they have to say and let them finish their thoughts without interruption. Nancy Kline, founder and president of Time To Think, believes everybody should have equal chance to speak and points out that people spend most of their time in a meeting focusing on what they are going to say or defending their ideas from criticism, instead of listening to one another.
Listen to your customer. Serial entrepreneur Mitchell Harper advises fellow business leaders get customer feedback as early as possible in the process. Give customers a channel to openly tell you how you’re doing and where you can improve. Remember: your brand is only as good as your customers think it is.
“Most startups try to build the wedding cake (the big final product) on their first iteration instead of starting small with a cupcake (simplest version that solves a single problem), then turning it into a cake (based on customer feedback) and then finally into a wedding cake (again, based on customer feedback).”
Listen to the market. Identify trends, monitor shifts, be aware of potential threats and get a head start on upcoming opportunities. But, once again, don’t just keep that information to yourself. Make sure you are effectively sharing strategic insights with your team.
More important than gathering data is what you make of it. To take your business to the next level, you need to turn isolate pieces of information into actionable knowledge and collaborate with others into making it happen.