Kristopher B. Jones is a prominent internet entrepreneur, investor, public speaker, and best-selling author. In 2008 Kris wrote a book on Search Engine Optimization that is currently in its third print for Wiley (2008, 2010, 2013) and has sold nearly 100,000 copies. Kris is the founder and former President and CEO of Pepperjam (sold to eBay), managing partner of KBJ Capital (13 companies), and the founder and CEO of LSEO.com and APPEK Mobile Apps.
Leadership challenges are a startup's biggest enemy when routing the path to success. Besides the everyday problems in startups -- making payroll, increased workloads, economic downfalls -- leadership challenges can quickly dissolve a company. These arrive in many forms -- from personal shortcomings to keeping employees and team leaders from ripping each other apart.
I've found that most solutions for leadership challenges reside in simple communication and strong relationships within your organization. This applies to the executive level, down to the lowest-ranked employee. In my 17-plus years of entrepreneurship in the digital marketing industry -- from my first startup Pepperjam that was eventually sold to eBay Enterprises to my latest, LSEO and APPEK Mobile Apps -- I've spent a lot of time in leadership roles. Throughout these years I've gained some perspective on how to abolish leadership challenges (though this is an ongoing process), starting with addressing the not-so-obvious communication issues.
Here are four methods that have helped me prove my success as an entrepreneur and a leader. The sooner you learn these methods, the smoother your path to success will be.
Have an Open System of Communication
Always keep the lines of communication open with your team leaders, even if you've already hired the most respected and accomplished people you know. Communicate with pure passion and emphasis on your vision; the byproduct will be more comfort between not only you and your team leaders, but the entire organization as a whole.
And there's an added bonus -- since your team leaders also serve business' front line, they can have an impact on a happy client. Think of it like a huge funnel: the more communication up top, the clearer the end message will be for the customer. This builds trust, which translates to long-term clients.
Make Sure Team Leaders Are Happy in Their Current Roles
Don't be afraid to ask team leaders if they are happy within their current roles, and ask them to do likewise with their respective employees. Sometimes one's strengths may be found in something else -- maybe that tech guru you hired has strong client services skills, or vice versa. When people are unhappy, it adds unneeded stress to the workplace.
Early in my leadership career, I realized this simple solution for some disgruntled employees, especially those who were with the company for a while. It's obvious that work quality suffers when an employee is unhappy, but sometimes employees just aren't a fit for their correct roles. Just because someone has a degree or is qualified for one thing, doesn't mean that they can't excel at something else. The least you can do is give them a shot at what they want to try -- it may end up paying off big-time for your business.
Encourage Face-to-Face Communication Among Employees
Emails and texts are mainstream, but face-to-face communication always trumps all. When I was building Pepperjam, I made sure to personally communicate with team leaders on a weekly basis, and directed them to do the same with each and every member of their teams.
If you're passionate about your business, talking face-to-face with your leadership team will come with ease. It not only helps strengthen the bonds among employees; it also helps smooth out conversations about product and process -- both things that need to be 100 percent polished in order to see any success.
Learn the Difference Between Leading and Managing
Many young entrepreneurs confuse these two. In short, management is all about managing things like a budget, workflow or time, while leadership is all about inspiring, sharing a vision and purpose, and providing direction.
Team leaders have to master management for obvious reasons -- it's the backbone of a company's bottom line. But they also have to lead, and help their respective team members move things along in the most optimal manner -- and that's by providing leadership that inspires confidence.
During the beginning stages of Pepperjam, I confused the two, and was doing more to manage everyone's time and workflow rather than provide the leadership they needed. Once I learned to share my vision and provide clear direction, I inspired more confidence in my team leaders, who in turn inspired more confidence in their teams. I can directly attribute learning the difference to the success -- and ultimate sale -- of that company.
Only a few people, such as entrepreneur giants Sir Richard Branson and Marc Benioff, have truly perfected the art of leadership. But, for other entrepreneurs like myself, perfecting leadership is an ongoing process -- one that takes patience and discipline. Start with these methods -- all rooted in communication -- and began your path towards overcoming potential leadership challenges.