Creating a nurturing environment where individual attributes are acknowledged is essential for small business owners who want to create a positive workplace. If you can modify your management style so that employees are able to shine in times of success, while still offering assistance in times of difficulty, you will be well on your way to a better working environment.
"It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership."
- Nelson Mandela
As the owner of a small business, it is not uncommon to feel you need to be in charge at all times, be it times of success or times of failure. An effective leader, however, knows when it’s time to lead and when it’s time to let their staff shine. It is important to recognise what situations lend themselves to different leadership styles, as well as knowing your staff’s strengths and weaknesses well enough to determine what tasks suit each team member.
Prepare your staff for success
It is important that your staff understand that, as members of the team, they are vital to the business’s success. It is essential that they recognise their efforts as being more than a means by which you benefit financially. Find out their strengths and work at developing them. It is also helpful to remind your staff that you will be there when things get difficult. Remember, not all workers feel confident enough to ask for help, so keep an eye out for signs that staff may be struggling and step in to offer assistance.
Create an open environment
To ensure your staff are able to come to you when they need help, it is important that you accept mistakes will be made and deal with those mistakes when they occur. When your staff feel that errors are met with constructive feedback rather than reprimand, they will be more likely to open up to you when they are in need of help. Rather than seeing mistakes as failures, instil the attitude that they are opportunities for learning and don’t be afraid to admit that you too make mistakes.
Nurture all staff members and develop their unique abilities
It can be easy to get into the habit of turning to particular staff members who have demonstrated their abilities in the past. However, it is important to acknowledge all members and nurture their individual and unique abilities. This will not only give everyone the opportunity to be successful, but will minimise favouritism and the complications it can bring.
Know every role
Sometimes business owners can forget the roles of their staff while they focus on their own tasks. As the owner, it is crucial that you are able to easily shift from one role to another, especially when there is a problem, and recognise that every role is important.
For example, a boss who is unaccustomed with dealing with clients at the reception desk will be of little use when staff need help with a disgruntled customer. Furthermore, when we are unfamiliar with the roles of our staff, we are less likely to recognise their successes. We might not be able to recognise difficult situations unique to that particular role and achievements when they are overcome.
Give recognition and rewards
Be sure to acknowledge staff when they are successful. This can be done through rewards as well as verbal recognition. It is important that your team are made aware of the successes of other members so that they can see that success is appreciated as well as having something to work towards.
When you are able to step back, leadership isn’t about ego or “being the boss” for the sake of it. Your staff will appreciate your leadership when they know that they can depend on it when things get difficult and feel valued when their successes are acknowledged. Don’t feel that a worker who is able to lead in a situation is somehow a threat to your position or authority. Instead, rejoice in their abilities because, as their leader, you have contributed to their success – and when your staff are successful so is your business.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Nick Petrovic is a registered psychologist and head of clinic at the Mind Profile Psychology Clinic and has more than 10 years' experience in the allied health and business. Nick has contributed to regular columns in more than a dozen business magazines and newspapers, advising on issues such as mental health, work related stress, strategic planning, business analysis and human resources.