You may not be consciously aware of it, but your employees are acutely aware of you and they're silently judging your competency as a leader with every decision you make. This is true of the employees who are vested and care deeply about your business, but more so of the employees who look less than favorably on your leadership skills.
You are continually leading the people around you, and the success of your business is directly tied to your awareness, decisiveness, empathy, and other leadership traits.
With some simple exercises and changes to your daily habits, you can level up those leadership skills to see tremendous rewards.
1. Take in the view from an employee perspective
The best way to discover how you can improve your skills as a leader is to ask the people around you. Your employees will have the best vantage point for observing your strengths and opportunities for improvement.
A survey on how employees feel about your company can include questions about leadership performance, providing you with tremendous insight into how you're doing as a leader, and where you can improve.
2. Stop being a solutions provider
Entrepreneurs and managers typically find success because they're able to think outside the box and find solutions. Your business expertise might make it easy to fix situations and problems; it might be faster to do it yourself or give someone the answer.
You're not helping your team, though, and you're not leading them by "fixing" everything.
When you provide the answers, you eliminate challenge and take away any opportunity for your employees to learn. By stepping back and being "hands off," you are nurturing growth and giving them the chance to find better ways to get things done.
3. Shift to a constructive tone
Mastering language and communication skills is what sets truly great leaders apart. Take absolute responsibility for how your employees hear you--never patronize or be critical of your team.
If you find yourself ready to drop a negative comment, pause. Take a breath and find a better way to get the idea across without it being backed by an emotional response. A strong leader finds ways to respond constructively and calmly.
4. Be the leader employees want to follow
Disingenuous communication and hypocritical behavior can erode trust and credibility. The result is employees who disengage from the team and their work because the foundation of trust is gone.
Without that foundation, your relationship with your team is unsteady at best, and the odds of them willingly following your leadership plummet. While it may not be evident to you, your team sees it.
Nearly 1 in 4 workers say they don't trust their employer, and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them. This is where you need to look at your actions and processes to find opportunities to lead by example and improve your communication with your team.
5. Delegate and divide
Henry Ford revolutionized industry by taking assembly and breaking down one large task into smaller milestones along an assembly line. His concept changed the world with a simple principle--each big goal could be broken down into smaller goals that were assigned to people best suited for the individual task.
One of the best skills that improves leadership is learning to delegate. Utilize your team, train them, and trust in them to do more. When you can identify their individual strengths and allocate work accordingly, you unburden yourself. Employees also feel empowered because they've become a part of the assembly system working toward a larger goal. They feel truly valued.
6. Look to others
When a sports team digs into footage of other teams, they're not just sizing the team up for weaknesses. The hours spent watching play-by-play helps them learn. The coach is often learning right alongside the team.
Give yourself the opportunity to learn how to do something better from someone who has a skill or strength that you don't. Whether that means a mentor or business greats of the past--or learning from lectures and conferences--zero in on traits and skills and use them to mold and shape your own style.
The success of others, their intense experiences as well as their failures, can be an illuminating way to improve your own leadership skills.
7. Make an effort to inspire your team
Motivating and inspiring your team is an important part of improving your leadership game. It has a direct impact on maintaining a competitive edge and affects how your employees view your leadership. Not all of your employees are going to run at peak performance every day, and threats aren't going to make them work harder.
Your employees will respond better when you encourage them to stay focused and make them feel valued. Keep them in the loop, review goals, set the bar high, and reward those who pass it. When you make goal achievement a positive and enjoyable process, other employees will be motivated and inspired to work harder for you.
8. Change how you discipline
Dealing with difficult employees when they're struggling can be tricky, but issues need to be tackled as soon as they come up. It's much easier to find resolution and make course corrections when a problem is still fresh.
Too many business owners leave "little" issues alone, but those little issues turn into habits, and habits turn into bigger problems.
When you address an issue, always give your employee the opportunity to explain, even if you're not looking for an explanation. Just giving them the opportunity to be heard will make them feel respected. Be open to changing your position on an issue after they've had the opportunity to explain.
Above all else, never change how you show respect to your employees in public, even if you are put in a position where they need to be reprimanded in private. Your entire team will take notice if an employee is embarrassed publicly.
What are you planning to do to improve your leadership skills? What have you tried in the past that has yielded results? Share in the comments below: