Have you ever heard the saying, “No man is an island?”
It’s true, and it’s something that applies to running a successful business. Every business needs one important thing — something more than time, money, or connections.
Every entrepreneur relies on people.
If you want to be successful at building a strong and sustainable business, you’ll need to know how to lead people and become an excellent guide for your team.
Research shows that 80 percent of people think they’re better-than-average leaders. The bad news for most of these people is the fact that they’re wrong.
They overestimate their skills as leaders, which creates blind spots in their relationships and headaches in their business. Poor leadership is a difficult problem to fix.
Research also shows that most people don’t like negative feedback, which tends to complicate things even more. These people don’t get the feedback they need to improve, so it’s tough for them to become better leaders.
Every entrepreneur needs leadership skills.
Every organization needs a leader; every entrepreneur needs leadership skills.
But why should entrepreneurs take the time to develop leadership skills to become stronger entrepreneurs? Can’t entrepreneurs develop the skills they need to build successful businesses without leadership skills?
No, because a lack of leadership creates a leadership vacuum.
When there’s a problem, crisis, or emergency, the people around you — employees, partners, and shareholders — look for a strong leader to follow.
Tom Rath, Barry Conchie, and the Gallup Research team surveyed more than 10,000 followers to find out what some of the world’s most influential leaders contributed to their lives.Followers search for a leader that can meet four basic needs:
Followers search for a leader that can meet four basic needs:
- Trust points to behavioral predictability. This means the people around you see you doing exactly what you say you’ll do. Trust develops naturally in these relationships, and it’s something that employees and customers look for.
- Stability is all about consistency. Your customers, employees, shareholders, and partners all want to see reliability. Customers want to see that you’re the same company they joined, employees want to know they’ll continue to have a job six months from now, and shareholders want to see that you’re focused on growing the business. It’s about following the plan.
- Hope depends on stability. Your followers need to see that there are good things to look forward to in the future, that things will continue to improve, in order to buy into the vision you create as their leader. If hope is a house, stability is your foundation. It’s tough to get followers to believe in something better when they don’t have stability now.
- Compassion is showing that you care. Gallup found that employees who don’t have close friendships at work or a leader who cares about them aren’t engaged at work. That’s not really surprising when you see that only 30 percent of U.S. employees are actually engaged at work.
Here’s a real-life example.
Toyota decided to stop producing trucks and SUVs at their San Antonio and Princeton plants. A move like this typically means employees are out of a job.
That created a lot of fear, anxiety, and distrust. At first, employees were worried they would lose their jobs.
Toyota decided to keep all 4,000 employees on the clock, choosing to retrain the entire plant instead. That’s full-time hours with benefits while they learned to build a completely different car.
Here are the benefits of good leadership skills:
- Loyalty from customers, employees, partners, and shareholders
- Happy and engaged employees
- Happy and satisfied customers
- Increase in employee productivity
- Dependable and trustworthy employees
- Increase in sales and profit
Strong entrepreneurs know that it takes a team to be successful. Strong leaders focus their time on building the right leadership skills because these skills enable them to bring the best out of those around them.
But, which skills are most important? Which ones will make you a stronger entrepreneur?
1. Develop solid communication skills
Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of communication. Good communication makes persuasion possible, making it easier to transfer your vision, ideas, and passion to those around you.
Communication is a pretty broad term. What am I referring to specifically when I use the term communication?
- Thinking skills
- Active listening skills
- Nonverbal skills
- Writing skills
- Speaking and presentation skills
- Negotiation skills
- Conflict resolution skills
- Charisma and likeability skills
When you don’t have the communication skills you need, sales and marketing become pretty impossible tasks. Selling your product to customers, getting investors to support your business, recruiting employees, and building an incredible team — these all require excellent communication skills.
With communication skills, you have the opportunity to explain why other people should give you what you want and what you’ll give them in return.
Here’s how you develop good communication skills.
First, make your message clear.
Leadership is communication. It can be a one-on-one or one-to-many conversation. At any given time, your audience wants an answer to three questions:
- What are you saying to me? If you’re speaking to your audience and they don’t understand what you’re saying, you can’t have a conversation.
- Do I believe what you’re saying? If your audience doesn’t believe your message, there’s nothing you can do to move the conversation forward.
- Will I do what you want me to do? Does your audience have what they need to make a decision or do what you want?
Create an opening that’s immediately clear to your audience and free from noise. Give your audience a clear and compelling reason to listen to what you have to say.
Next, practice delivering your message.
Your audience has their own way of speaking. They use specific terms, slang, and jargon.
Your message shouldn’t be new and innovative.
Instead, you should be you. feeding your audience’s thoughts, words, and expectations right back to them. Your audience expects you to communicate with them in their language and style.
Finally, use feedback to improve your message.
Use surveys to get feedback from your audience and pay close attention to trends and patterns of behavior.
You’re looking for specific, actionable feedback that you can use to attract and convert your audience members.
2. The ability to persuade others
Your ability to persuade others depends on your communication skills. When you’re able to persuade those around you, you’re able to change their minds, to get them to see your point of view.
Here’s the part most people miss.
Persuasion is completely voluntary.
If your customers, employees, partners, and co-workers don’t want to be convinced, there isn’t a whole lot you can do.
So, how do you persuade people to do what you want them to do whenever you want them to do it?
You find the things they value, then you provide that value to them over and over again. Here’s how you do it.
First, find your target audience.
Are you marketing to customers, recruiting future employees, or preparing a pitch for venture capitalists? Figure out who you’re speaking to first.
Start by figuring out what you want.
If you’re looking for investors, you know they want specific things from you before they’ll give you what you want.
If you’re trying to recruit all-star employees, you know they’re looking for salary, incentives, and intangibles.
Identify the group you’re speaking to and you’ll have a general idea of what’s most persuasive to them.
Next, figure out what specifically persuades your audience.
You’re looking for the details they find persuasive. If you’re preparing to pitch investors, give them what they’re looking for.
Most investors are incredibly busy. They want a well-thought-out plan that’s short, concise, and to the point.
For example, if you’re pitching VCs, they’re focused on a few things.
- Is there a (big) market for the product or service you’re selling?
- Do you have a strong value proposition that shows your business in unique?
- Do you have a strong management team with plenty of experience?
- Do you have a viable business with customers, cash flow, and intellectual property?
Your audience is typically focused on a few very specific things.
If your audience is sophisticated, they’ve learned to look for these persuasion details, filter through candidates, and make decisions quickly.
This is the part new entrepreneurs get wrong.
They focus the conversation on the details they feel are most important. When they do that, they immediately lose the attention of their audience along with any chance to persuade their target consumers.
Give your audience what they want.
A common marketing mistake is to give customers what they need. Customers are far more interested in what they want.
What do customers want?
Outcomes! Customers want the results your products and services can provide. They’re not all that interested in what they need.
A customer may need to lose weight, but what they actually want is the extra energy to play with their kids.
Persuasion is all about matchmaking. You give your audience the things they want in exchange for their trust, loyalty, and resources.
What does that look like?
Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone on January 9th, 2007 at the MacWorld Conference. What looked like a polished presentation was actually a miracle.
Andy Grignon, a senior engineer with Apple at the time, said Jobs’s presentation was one part fluke and one part stroke of genius.
Most of the companies in Silicon Valley hosted canned product demos, but Jobs knew that customers wanted to see a live demo.
Customers didn’t know what they were getting, but they wanted to see it in action.
He had Cingular wireless bring in a cell phone tower, then he had engineers program the iPhone to always show five bars of signal strength (regardless of the actual signal strength).
It was all part of the perfect image he wanted to project to customers.
Jobs practiced several hours a day for five days.
He practiced as often as he did because the original iPhone was filled with bugs.
The iPhone couldn’t play an audio or video file completely without crashing. If you surfed the web right before sending an email, the phone would crash.
The phone only had 128 MB of memory, but the apps were unfinished, which meant they were big and bloated.
The iPhone ran out of memory and had to be restarted repeatedly.
Jobs knew customers expected perfection. Apple had a history of setting the bar high, but he knew what he needed to do to persuade customers and fans.
3. Use time management to prioritize
Time management is a leadership skill that’s difficult for entrepreneurs to master. It’s a skill that’s important when you start your business, but even more necessary as your business grows.
As your business grows, you’ll experience more and more demands on your time.
You’ll need to learn to manage your time wisely, but you’ll also need to learn how to keep your team focused on the details that matter most for your business.
For example, meetings are an incredible waste of time when they don’t have a purpose, are missing structure, or aren’t relevant to those who attend.
Poor time management is the reason many entrepreneurs struggle to accomplish what they set out to do.
By now most of us are familiar with the 80/20 rule.
Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created the principle we’re all familiar with today. Most of our personal and professional lives are affected by the 80/20 rule.
- 80 percent of our revenue comes from 20 percent of our customers.
- 80 percent of our best employees come from 20 percent of our recruiting efforts.
- 20 percent of my ideas generate 80 percent of my website traffic.
- 20 percent of your activities produce 80 percent of your results.
Many entrepreneurs spend their time on tasks that aren’t really important.
Let’s say you have a list of 10 to-do items you want to finish. At any given time, there are at least one or two to-do items that are much more valuable than the other items on your list.
These to-do items are often 5, 10 or 20 times more valuable.
The other 80 percent — the remaining to-dos on your list — need to be done, but they’re just not as important as the 20 percent you should be focused on first.
Where do you start first? Start with the Eisenhower Matrix.
The Eisenhower Matrix was created by President Dwight Eisenhower. He was s five-star general who served as the supreme commander of all the allied forces in World War II and NATO, planning invasions in North Africa, France, and Germany.
He launched programs that led to the Interstate Highway System in the United States, the Internet via DARPA, space exploration via NASA, and the peaceful use of atomic energy via the Atomic Energy Act.He also found time to serve as the President of Columbia University.
He also found time to serve as the president of Columbia University.
His time-management skills were legendary.
Here’s how you can use his Eisenhower Matrix to dramatically increase your productivity.
- Urgent and important to-dos you’ll do immediately
- Important but non-urgent to-dos you’ll schedule for later
- Urgent but unimportant to-dos you’ll delegate to someone else
- Neither urgent nor important to-dos you’ll eliminate
The Eisenhower Matrix, when combined with the 80/20 rule, gives you the ability to remove, delegate or outsource the low-value to-dos.
How do you delegate or outsource low value to-dos?
Virtual assistant services like Time etc. enable you to remove the unimportant but urgent, low-value to-dos from your day. Here’s how you get started.
First, enter your name, phone number, and email address at the Time etc. website.
Next, create your account.
Choose a category.
Then, tell your assistant about your task.
How do you remove unimportant, no-value to-dos?
Stop doing these low-value to-dos entirely. Or, if it’s something you enjoy, severely limit the amount of time spent on these low-value items.
4. Don’t demotivate your followers
They hate their workplaces, the environments they work in, and their co-workers. According to a Gallup poll, that’s been consistent for the last decade.
Most people aren’t motivated at work, but the problem isn’t really about motivating or inspiring employees.
It’s actually about demotivation.
Whenever people start something new, they’re motivated, optimistic, or happy. They’re focused on their opportunity and on the good things they’ll be able to do and achieve.
Then demotivation slowly creeps in.
What’s the cause of all this demotivation? Poor communication. The vast majority of employees listed communication problems as the cause of demotivation.
- Leaders aren’t good at communicating positive things about the future.
- They aren’t recognized for doing good work.
- Leaders fail to communicate work-related details — such as expectations, benefits, and time off — properly.
It isn’t just about the communication problems, though. It’s a breakdown of the relationship.
How does that happen?
- Unclear performance standards
- Accepting poor performance
- Not holding poor performers accountable
- Treating everyone equally regardless of their performance
- Creating a lot of pointless rules
- Promoting underperformers who are unqualified
- A lack of interest in anyone on the team
- No personal development programs
It’s a long list of problems created by poor leadership skills.That’s a disaster because as we’ve seen, 80 percent of entrepreneurs in leadership positions of all kinds feel they’re actually doing an above average job.
That’s a disaster because, as we’ve seen, 80 percent of entrepreneurs in leadership positions of all kinds feel they’re actually doing an above-average job.
Here’s how you avoid demotivating your followers.
Be firm, but kind.
Brutal honesty tends to be more brutal than honest.
Radical candor is a better option, giving leaders the tools they need to tell the painful truth without manipulative insincerity, obnoxious aggression, or harmful empathy.
Listen to your followers.
At first, your followers are looking for opportunities to share their constructive criticism, experience, and feedback.It won’t always feel great, show them that you care about what they have to say and they’ll keep talking. Respond poorly and your followers will stop talking.
It won’t always feel great, but show them that you care about what they have to say and they’ll keep talking. Respond poorly and your followers will stop talking.
Don’t lecture your followers. Lead by example.
Uncommitted complaints, unhelpful criticism, and poor feedback turns your followers off. It’s a better idea to lead by example, doing as much of the things you’d like your followers to do as possible.
Be open and transparent.
Show those around you that you’re willing to be honest and trustworthy even when it hurts. Good leaders understand that a lack of transparency creates distrust and insecurity in followers even if they’re loyal.
Show your followers that you care.
Your followers — whether they’re customers, investors, partners, or vendors — want to know that you care.
Show that you care about their problems and that you’re willing to do what you can to help.
Arrogance and contempt get in the way of a good relationship.
Great leaders focus on serving those around them with a humble attitude. They avoid climbing over their followers to get what they want.
Every entrepreneur needs leadership skills to run a successful business. If you want to build a consistent and sustainable business, you need leadership skills.
Most people think they’re better leaders than they actually are.
Becoming a great leader isn’t hard, it just takes time and lots of practice. When there’s a problem, crisis, or emergency, you’ll need people around you.
If you run into trouble, you’ll need your leadership skills. All of the people around you will gravitate to a strong leader.
As an entrepreneur, you’ll want to use your strong leadership skills to create trust, stability, hope, and compassion because these are the things your followers will be looking for.
What leadership skills do you feel are most important for running a business?