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Seven steps to developing a leadership culture

Wednesday, 10 August 2011 | By Marc Peskett
Marc PeskettFor many start-ups, a lack of leadership talent is often cited as an impediment to the growth of the business.

 

While initially it may just be you in the start-up phase, without any employees, it’s important at this early stage to get the leadership basics right, so you’re ready when the business starts to grow and you need to employ.

 

Getting the base right involves developing the following attributes:

 

  1. Have a well-defined vision or purpose for the business and a set of values that supports that vision. Ingrain your vision and values into how you operate and make decisions as a business.

    This includes decisions about employing the right people when the time comes. When you do have staff, your vision and values will also help them understand what’s expected of them and provide a strong beacon to guide their own actions and decisions.

  2. Have a strong sense of the culture you want to achieve for the business. The culture of the business will set the tone for how people conduct themselves and interact with others both internal and external.

    Develop and protect that culture when you bring staff on board and then make them responsible for living by it and upholding it.

  3. Assess your business strategy over the next three to five years and your ability to execute it. What additional skills and activities will you need to implement over this longer-term period? What new products/services or new business units will you set up?

    What new markets will you pursue? Who will be responsible for leading the charge to achieve these objectives?

    Matching your business strategy against the resource and leadership skills required, allows you to identify gaps and start putting plans in place to address them.

  4. As you build a team, develop their leadership skills as well as their technical skills. It takes time for people to develop all the attributes they require to be successful future leaders.

    Start this process early on and build capability at all levels of seniority throughout your team.

    Create opportunities for them to get practical experience on the job, make decisions appropriate to their role and learn how to perform under pressure.

  5. Be clear about your key business drivers and make sure everyone understands them. Leaders that focus on these drivers can use them in efficient and effective decision-making.

    Teams can rely on them to prioritise their work. This will help the businesses achieve its objectives now and in the future.

  6. Lead by example. If you don’t embrace and believe your own mantra, your team won’t either. You need to live by your vision, values and the business culture you are creating.

    You should also demonstrate the key qualities of leadership you want your team to display.

    While it’s often thought leaders are born rather than made, there are a number of leadership characteristics that can be learned and should be incorporated into your team development approach:

    • Enthusiasm: Leaders need to be motivated and passionate about what they do. Infectiousness spreads and sets the tone for the rest of the team. It also picks people up during the tough times, encourages them to keep focusing on your objectives and pursue the activities that will achieve desired outcomes.

      Encouraging your team to identify their own personal goals that can be tied to career achievements. It will help them find the motivation and stamina to keep performing at a consistently high level.

    • Being open minded: Show your staff how to see things from different perspectives when dealing with their colleagues and customers. Identify potential conflict and use the opportunity to workshop different points of view.

      Having an open mind enables leaders to identify and consider all opportunities, work through differences of opinion and develop and maintain effective working relationships with people from all walks of life.

    • Being goal oriented: Clearly articulate the outcomes you aim to achieve for the business. Better still, involve your team in planning and setting your goals, as well as tracking your progress against the targets you set.

      You need your entire team engaged and contributing, so encourage them to set individual goals designed to support those of the business.

    • Being accessible: Leaders need to be accessible to support their teams and keep their finger on the pulse of what’s occurring in the business.

      It also provides the opportunity for them to learn by hearing or witnessing the sort of ideas and behaviour you want your team to emulate.

      Make your team responsible and accountable for teaching and training each other and they will also learn to be accessible and responsive to each other.

    • Acknowledging accomplishment: Good leaders notice and congratulate their staff for their accomplishments both big and small.

      Everyone likes acknowledgement and it’s easy to give. Find opportunities for your team to tell each other about their wins and celebrate them.

      Create the habit publically and they will often continue the acknowledgement between themselves, in one-on-one interactions as well.

    • Trust: People need to trust their leaders in order to follow them. Teach your team about the reliance they have on one another and how important it is to build and maintain trust.

      Ethics, integrity and honesty are important to building trust, as is taking responsibility for your own actions.

      While these attributes are ones that should be learned by the time we are adults, you can clarify your expectations to your team and through doing so, emphasise their importance as part of the culture of your business.

  7. Incorporate leadership skills into your performance management processes.

    Provide rewards for achievement in leadership and raise the bar each time to keep developing and honing these skills across in your team.

 

If you get the base right, you’ll be primed to pursue opportunities and successfully manage growth.

 

Marc Peskett is a director of MPR Group a Melbourne based firm that provides business advisory services as well as tax, outsourced accounting, grants support and financial services to fast growing small to medium enterprises.  MPR Group is a member of the Proactive Accountants Network.  You can follow Marc on Twitter @mpeskett