Story is a powerful business tool.
As a writer/screenwriter, I formally studied the art of writing and storytelling. From Stephen King’s On Writing, to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, to Aristotle’s Poetics. Which, by the way, is so tiny when you pick it up, it’s tempting to think it’ll be an easy read… It is not. It’s super packed with insight and requires a lot of reflection as you’re reading if you really want to really understand the material.
Maybe you’re thinking: “You just need that for fiction. That’s not for business.” Not so fast! Storytelling is what will captivate an audience, will attract your clients and will inspire your team.
So what basic structure could leaders use to help carve a more powerful business story?
Before we just jump into that, let's start with the potential uses for these stories.
I know that it gets tossed around a lot....
If you’re anything like me, these past few years have created habits of overwork.
Both growing a small business and being a leader have become so all-encompassing that I’ve been dropping the ball on an essential part: continuous growth.
I used to be really consistent with reading leadership books, business books. I used to attend webinars, take courses, regularly meet with people and then, somehow, operational aspects of the businesses took over.
Realizing this, I ensured to still make time for strategy by forcing recurring meetings which would, in turn, push me back out to planning strategically. But that did not address the growth part. Unless you count overcoming challenges but that is more unintentional growth. And I’m talking about controlled, intentional growth.
So what can we do to get back on the learning track when operational requirements have taken over?
One thing that you can do is join a book club. Now, to be fair, when I told my...
It’s quite typical for organizations to promote from within. You may have identified an extraordinary team member that has demonstrated leadership qualities in a variety of situations.
And that is certainly a great start.
But it is a start.
Although they may possess deep expertise executing tasks and collaborating with colleagues, obtaining positional power changes the dynamics.
So what can leaders do to help ensure that newly appointed managers have been provided with the basic essentials to also be effective?
The very first thing is choosing the role model mindset.
Yes, I know. We hear it all the time. The leader as a role model. Although not exactly new, it is essential. And, it's one thing to know about it. It’s another to actually be doing it.
Leading by example is absolutely one of the fundamental pillars of effective leadership. It’s the infamous “You need to walk the talk.” You can't just say one thing, then...
Recently, I met an absolutely wonderful solopreneur. We were talking about various challenges, about messaging in marketing, about pitching potential clients, and, as part of this back-and-forth conversation, I shared something about a difficult moment I experienced as a leader. This person’s demeanor changed instantly. “I don’t have a team. It’s just me. I’m still learning. Trying to get better at business.”
If it had been said with confidence it would be one thing. But it was said as an apology. As though, because this person was a solopreneur, that they wouldn’t have anything of value to contribute to our conversation.
So, to the solopreneurs who are finding themselves feeling like they're somehow less than others because they don't have a team, here’s some perspective on putting those thoughts aside and embracing the power of being a solopreneur.
Or at least it should be.
Denis Waitley said:...
Let's face it, being a new leader can be scary. Even though people don't talk about it a lot, it is natural to feel overwhelmed and anxious about how to handle situations and their outcome. The thing is, though, worrying can be destructive when left uncontrolled. And as entrepreneurs and leaders, I can guarantee you, you will be placed in high-stress, high-impact situations and even have to make decisions caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
So what can new leaders do to help manage harmful worrying?
The first thing is to actually recognize that it is harmful. Yes, I know. You're probably like: “I know that worrying is harmful.” Okay. But are you fully acknowledging it? Are you fully acknowledging just how harmful it is?
Have you truly considered how it is harming you as a person? It can take a toll on your mental and physical health. You will start feeling physical side effects, symptoms of that constant worry. Your...
To truly unlock a business's full potential requires addressing two complementary aspects in parallel.
The first one is the business side: understanding the strategy, financials, planning, operations, product services, marketing, etc. Basically, all that comes together to make a business functional.
The second one is the people side: the individuals that make the systems work together and fulfill the organization's purpose.
Because many entrepreneurs frequently start out by themselves, they typically will focus more on the functional side of things to build enough of a profitable business to, let's say, start paying themselves.
But what happens is, as the business starts to grow, they still heavily favor the functional side to the detriment of the people side.
So what can micro-business owners do to ensure that they are growing the people at the same time as the business?
The first thing is to understand how leaders make the difference....
Typically an organization's mission and core values are shared with new team members as part of some form of onboarding activity.
Then, they may be repeated at a yearly meeting of sorts. And maybe at that yearly meeting of sorts there's also going to be goal sharing and various ways that progress will be measured.
And for most organizations, that's pretty much the extent of the team member's exposure to ongoing strategy, the mission, and the values.
Basically, “Here's how we're going to measure and here's where we're going.” And that's pretty much it. It's sporadic and it's vague.
So what can a leader do to help create more opportunities for team members to connect with that broader picture?
The very first thing to verify is whether the elements are clear. Do individual team members understand what is the organization's vision, its mission, and its goals?
It's one thing to share these with the team. It’s another to know that they...
Like many leadership skills, having the ability to build trust begins with recognizing the importance of this activity and understanding the necessity to behave in a manner that will contribute to the development of that much desired trust and credibility.
Yes, some believe that having positional power automatically entitles them to this precious attitude, but I feel that this is actually compliance and not really trust. And to have a truly highly-functioning team, it's essential to build trust, not just have compliance.
So what are some strategies that can help us build trust?
It all starts with open communication. Share information about the decisions and the associated actions. Be clear about your intentions, about the goals.
That doesn't mean being careless and justifying everything by saying it’s “speaking the truth”. We can't just come in and say whatever and start blaming and finger-pointing and throwing people under the bus because...
When evaluating how our business is doing, we tend to gravitate toward stats. Numbers are that objective measure of growth or signal that there are significant issues that need to be addressed.
I know, for me, digging into numbers is that comfortable place. I just love it when I analyze the impact of implemented strategies. Okay… I don't always love it when the results aren't what I was hoping for, but it's certainly that fairly objective measure where I can really see whether the strategies are working or not.
But, as much as stats are essential – and a good SWOT – one aspect that is frequently neglected is measuring whether we’re remaining creative.
Creativity is key in helping entrepreneurs stand out from the crowd and gain a competitive edge.
So, in which ways do we employ creativity to ensure we’re driving innovation and growth?
One way is in recognizing opportunity. In another article, I talked about how to separate that...
Recently, I was chatting with a fellow business owner about training their new leaders. As part of that conversation, we talked about the importance of new leaders finding ways to build their leadership confidence.
There are some very real consequences to both having leaders who are recklessly confident and those who are unjustifiably insecure.
So how do we create conditions that will encourage new leaders to find that middle ground where they are both confident yet still able to lead with humility?
Ideally, it starts before you promote them. If you have a tendency of promoting internally, then you've probably already identified individuals that you feel would make great formal leaders.
And before you just assume that they want that responsibility, check with them because they may not be interested. Not everyone wants to lead a team. It doesn't make them bad people or bad employees! It's just a choice.
Some people love what they do right now and they want to do it for...