Regardless of its size, every business has a driving body behind it. For small businesses, it’s usually the business owner, but a driving body could be a board of directors, a coop board, or any person/persons who make top-level decisions.
That I didn’t say “leader” or “leadership team” to describe the above is intentional. This is because like many others, I reserve these terms for people who actually lead, not simply people who are in charge.
There is a huge difference, and that difference will impact your business.
Show Me a Business Without Good Leadership, and I’ll Show You a Failing Business
You’ve probably seen examples of this just as many times as I have. Effective leadership takes a business forward, handles issues with aplomb, and takes care of the big-picture so that the rest of the staff can focus on getting their work done. Ineffective driving bodies struggle to keep the business working, panic when problems arise, and drag everyone into the mire with them so that nothing gets done.
In short, leadership creates and executes solid, well-thought-out policies and procedures, while their failing counterparts go from day-to-day in the egotistical fog of “being in charge”.
The Small Business Leadership Problem
Small businesses usually operate in an environment of scarcity. Resources aren’t exactly overflowing, especially in the first few years, and success often involves razor-thin margins, asset juggling, and the endless pursuit of minimized expenses.
All of these variables mean that accountability is a huge part of keeping a business viable. Someone has to be accountable for customers, fulfillment, sales, accounting — and more than likely, you’re tracking these numbers diligently.
But the most important factor of all is usually free-floating somewhere in the ether: “the boss.”
There’s not really any tracking software for measuring effective leadership, and the boss rarely answers to anyone. The old cop-out for this situation is that “the boss answers to the customers”, but that doesn’t nearly measure up.
As important as our clients are, the vast majority of what we do as a business happens internally. As the leader of Mad Mojo, I could give the best customer service on the planet, but if my crew isn’t producing the results that clients are paying us for, I’ve failed and the business will cease to exist in short order.
You see, the boss also has a huge responsibility to their staff. If they “answer” to the customers – in the since that their position as decision-maker makes them accountable – then they also “answer” to their subordinates. Or they should.
Leadership isn’t about delegating work, setting deadlines, and cracking the whip. That’s boss stuff, and literally anyone with a pulse can be a taskmaster.
Leadership is about creating procedures that add value to the business, hiring the best talent and using them to their fullest, and maintaining a work environment that’s conducive to success.
That’s what a leader is accountable for. And yes, part of good leadership is putting those responsibilities ahead of kissing the collective butts of your clients. Gasp!
The above might sound like blasphemy, but if you let your internal operations fall to shambles or maintain a work environment that’s inefficient and miserable, you are doing your clients a disservice.
Trust me, your customers want your business to run smoothly because that has more of a direct impact on what you’re able to provide them than your willingness to schmooze them does.
Do Your Business a Favor and Prioritize HIGH-quality Leadership
When you make the active decision to hone your position as a leader, you’ve taken the first step. Like most other processes in business, this is a goal-oriented concept. I’ve taken to putting my leadership goals and values into writing and sharing it with anyone who works with me.
My Leadership Pledge
As leader of the Mad Mojo Customs team, I value our business, our clients, our product, and our collective happiness and success.
As the leader of the team, I pledge to keep a workplace that encourages creative thinking and pleasant working hours. I will remain open to suggestions and feedback from my team, and will work with any team member who feels that workplace conditions could be improved.
As the creator of policies and procedures, I pledge to create, improve, and enforce internal procedures that add value to our business. I understand the value of procedures within the workplace, and will strive to keep ours a well-oiled machine. It is my goal to create policies that maximize our business potential while minimizing stress and disorder within our operation.
As a creative part of the team, I pledge to remain open-minded toward new ideas and approaches while always bringing my most innovative ideas to the table. It is my goal to allow our staff the maximum freedom to be creative and forward-moving.
It is the responsibility of all Mad Mojo team members to hold me accountable to this pledge. If at any time I deviate from the above, I expect to be notified immediately so that I may correct my course of action.
What do you want to achieve as the leader? How does this impact the clients and your team? Who is going to hold you accountable to this pledge?
I recommend that you put these ideas in writing and share them openly. Don’t be vague! Planning is powerful, even when you’re approaching something as seemingly innate as your behavior within your own company.
Most importantly, you must mean what you say when you create this pledge, and stick to it.