Successful organizations are built on effective leadership.
In addition to driving innovation, effective leadership is a primary driver for the growth and development of an organization, and without it, businesses can struggle to survive.
Leaders throughout an organization are integral to the overall success of the business. Effective leadership is about executing the company's vision and setting the tone and culture. It's about creating plans and motivating people to work together to achieve that vision.
Poor leadership puts a strain on your business. Ineffective leadership can drive away talented employees, destroy culture, and minimize long-term success. The costs of poor leadership are the most significant and impactful, particularly to small businesses. While there can be many reasons for business struggles, effective leadership can prevent many of them and deliver on results.
Great leadership starts from the top. Whether you're just beginning to hire or looking to expand an already established organization, your business's success is highly dependent on the success of your leadership team.
The key to your employees' performance is to create a system based on accountability, trust, and buy-in. In this post, we'll teach you how to cultivate these skills as a leader and how to use them to develop an effective leadership system of your own.
What is a leadership system?
Simply put, a leadership system is how leadership is exercised both formally and informally throughout an organization. It's the basis for which critical decisions are made, communicated, and carried out. An effective leadership system respects your team's capabilities and requirements and sets high expectations for performance and performance improvement. Additionally, it builds loyalties and teamwork based on its vision and the pursuit of shared goals.
Without a leadership system, your organization can lack consistency and struggle to work as a singular unit to move the business forward.
In working with hundreds of entrepreneurs, we've found that building a leadership system starts with developing your skills as a leader.
We've pulled our resources together to create a guide that you can use to improve your leadership skills and build a leadership system for your business. This post will discuss how to share your vision and create buy-in, trust, and accountability, create a consistent system and structure for effective meetings, and create a development plan for future leaders and employees. We'll also share a few key takeaways, including:
- A tool you can use to develop a leadership system unique to your organization
- Tactics for how to achieve buy-in with your team
- How to assess your goals to determine your leadership needs
- How to build a performance culture based on trust and accountability
With these resources, you'll have the tools you need to build a successful business now and in the future.
Identify Your Goals
The first step in developing a leadership system is having an inspiring vision. Your company vision is the foundation of your business. It's what drives you and your team and acts as a guiding force behind your business.
Your company's vision statement outlines the organization's aspirations and the broader impact you wish to make. A strong vision describes the why of your business and defines the direction it's heading in. It provides a path, and it gives you and your team a mission to rally behind.
Without a clear vision, an organization is susceptible to confusion about its purpose. If you don't have a vision lined out, stop here, and create one. This Vision Planning Tool will help you think through the basics and write a compelling vision for your business. It will even show you how to articulate your vision to communicate it to all stakeholders.
Once you have your vision, your goal as a leader is to communicate this vision to your team and ensure you're working towards the same end goal. To get your team bought into your vision, you need to establish trust, buy-in, and accountability. Throughout this post, I will share tactics to develop these skills.
Trust is the foundation of a great workplace. Your team can enjoy their work and be engaged in moving the company forward, but if they don't trust you or their supervisors, they'll doubt the company and have less pride in their accomplishments. Building trust in an organization has many benefits, including positive attitudes, higher levels of cooperation, better communication, job satisfaction, and increased performance quality.
While much of the trust between employers and employees is developed subconsciously, you can take steps to build more trusting relationships with your team, which can lead to reduced friction and improved performance.
- Don't force it - Trust develops in an open and natural environment. You can't force it — let it develop over time.
- Lead by example - A great way to start trust development is to lead by example. Show your team how trust looks.
- Communicate openly - Open communication is essential for building trust. Everyone on your team should be talking to one another in an honest, meaningful way.
- Get to know each other more - Ask questions and encourage your team to see and communicate with their colleagues as people.
- Avoid blame - Mistakes happen, and it's easy to blame someone who makes them. Placing blame lowers morale, undermines trust, and is ultimately unproductive.
- Openly discuss issues - Pinpoint the source of the problems that arise and develop a strategy to overcome them.
- Listen more - Simply listening to your team can also develop a deeper level of trust.
A key thing to remember is that you can't build trust overnight. It takes time. By taking the time to foster that trust in your organization, you'll see increased retention, increased performance, and camaraderie.
In addition to building trust, another challenge you will face as a leader is learning to establish and maintain buy-in with your team.
Building trust and buy-in for your vision or projects take patience and planning, but there are things you can do to accelerate the process and ensure success.
Here is a simple way to measure buy-in with your team and create buy-in to ensure your team stays engaged and productive.
Quality of the Idea x Buy-in Level = Execution
When presenting an idea, you must answer two questions:
- What is the quality of the idea?
- What is the buy-in level of the employee?
When you look at the quality of the idea multiplied by the employee's level of excitement, you get the execution level; the higher the execution level, the better. Unfortunately, employees won't always be psyched about executing, which is why buy-in is so important.
Here are five steps you can use to gain buy-in and ensure your team stays engaged and productive.
- Talk to your team and lay out the vision.
- Involve the team and personalize tasks.
- Stay connected, and schedule follow up.
- Address resistance.
- Be prepared to pivot.
As stated above, your vision drives the why. Walking your team from the starting point (today) to your end destination will guide and motivate them to take action and move the needle towards that end destination. This is also a great play to outline how changes will impact the organization as well as the effect it will have on the team and their careers.
One way you can increase the buy-in level is to allow your employees to be part of the process. By engaging and allowing employees to collaborate and contribute ideas will boost employee morale and drive execution. Additionally, you can set your team up for success by ensuring you assign tasks based on individual strengths and explain how each person's role is vital.
Stay connected with your team and ensure everyone is on the same page. Make yourself available for your organization. Encourage employees to update you when challenges arise so you can help problem-solve. That's not to say you should listen to every gripe and complaint, but you can let everyone know you are empathetic to their concerns and are willing to work with them to find solutions. Further, encourage employees to bring a solution with them when making you aware of a problem.
All changes will be met with some level of resistance. Be assertive in addressing instances of resistance. An occasional 1-on-1 alignment meeting to drive commitment may be necessary. This is important for two reasons. First, small problems have a nasty habit of growing. Second, you don't want unhappy employees to poison the minds of others.
Just as employees resist change, sometimes we fail to realize that our changes aren't working the way we want them to. Assuming you have the right workers on the right task, solicit their feedback. You have to be prepared to take their advice and adjust your game plan. Sometimes that means mid-course corrections. Other times, it means scrapping the plan and starting from scratch. That's not defeat — it's the ultimate sign that you value the buy-in your employees have for your ideas.
The more buy-in you get from more of your employees, the more productive they will be in executing your shared goals and initiatives. Buy-in saves time with dealing with employees not bought into what you are working towards.
Getting the buy-in of your employees is only as good as the execution. To ensure projects are completed, you need to hold tension to those goals. You need accountability.
Accountability is about ownership and initiative. Developing a culture in which all employees are responsible for their own actions, performance, and decision-making directly correlates with an increased commitment to their goals leading to higher performance.
Trust and buy-in are key factors in establishing accountability. Being accountable builds trust. The trust enables you to delegate more to your team, so your company grows. Buy-in ensures your team members are aligned, focused, and clear on their contribution to an overall vision.
As a leader, it is your responsibility to encourage ownership while holding tension to the goals. It's about open, proactive communication. An easy way to achieve accountability is through a consistent recurring meeting structure.
First, determine how often you should meet — weekly, biweekly, monthly — and stick to it. Consider how best to structure the meeting to achieve the goals you've set for it. Participants should prepare ahead of time, come to the meeting ready to check in on the goals, and review progress. Don't forget to re-assess and set new goals for the next meeting, walking through the steps to reach each new goal established. Accountability meetings are not meant to micromanage employees but create an environment where employees feel supported.
All of these elements build on top of one another so you can focus on results. Performance cultures are not built overnight. Like building trust, it takes time.
Developing Your Leadership System
Once you've developed trust, accountability, and buy-in from your team, it becomes easier to build your leadership systems.
With sound leadership, employees can rely on you and your leadership team, and more importantly, you can rely on them. But to achieve this, everyone needs to be aligned on expectations.
All businesses are different. Therefore leadership systems will be unique to match the needs of your business. To help you get the ball rolling and start making a move towards clarity between you and your team, we've developed an easy to use tool to create a Leadership System.
This tool is designed to help you outline everyone in your organization and figure out the best way to communicate the most significant deliverables they are responsible for. This clarifies the specific objectives for each employee and helps you make a conscious effort to be effective with your team.
This tool is used to set up clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). KPIs are a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively you achieve key business objectives. By identifying KPIs for all of your employees, you'll have a distinctive way to evaluate their success at reaching important targets.
In addition to the KPIs, this tool examines the complexity level of the goal to determine how best to approach your team members. The complexity level helps you make the best decision on the optimal meeting type. For example, suppose you have a meeting with a business partner. In that case, there is typically a higher complexity level, as there are usually a lot of moving pieces and variables to take into account when meeting. Once KPIs and complexity level is determined, it's time to determine the ideal meeting type to help hold accountability.
Most business owners never take the time to honestly assess all the people involved in their business, understand what is involved between each party, and how to most effectively conduct the communication. This tool provides a simple framework to start tackling such a valuable aspect of running a clean and well-organized business.
Developing these systems will not only help you provide consistent, effective leadership with your teams, but it will pave the way for future leaders. As your organization grows, it will allow you to transfer ownership to other leaders and ensure everyone is using the same operating system, leading to more consistent results over time.
When developing your leadership systems and looking at the trajectory of your organization, you will want to think about how your organization weaves development planning into your leadership systems.
Simply put, a development plan is an opportunity for leadership to plan for an individual's development and growth with an eye toward both the company and employee's future needs. Development planning helps answer the question, "In what areas should the employee develop for the future?"
Take a moment to assess the needs of your organization. What are the current or coming leadership needs? Do you already have those key players in place, or will you need to hire for future roles? What are the characteristics and attributes that current leaders within your organization possess that you would like to see throughout your business?
Whether you want to hire leaders from within or you simply want to keep employee morale high, you must have some development planning.
The process enables you and your employee to identify their personal and business goals that are most significant to the organization's success. It allows you to build a plan of development over time. In the process, employees set personal development goals that will increase their ability to contribute to your organization's success.
Development planning helps you not only create better leaders, but it enables you to create better teams overall. It's also a proven way to increase retention, staff experience, and productivity.
Whether you're just starting to grow, or you've had a large team for years, it is never too late to start working on your leadership skills. By implementing these skills within your business, you'll have your team operating at peak performance.
If you need more help with your leadership and don't know where to start, you don't have to go at it alone. Schedule a free two-hour session to dig into your business and develop a plan.
Unlock the Secrets to Business Growth
If you’ve ever found yourself stuck in your business, wondering what step to take next, this webinar was built for you.
As you make your plans, this webinar will show you what you should be focusing on based on where you are in your entrepreneurial journey. Join our webinar to learn the specific steps you can take right now to move the needle in your business.