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ATB Entrepreneur & Small BusinessDec 1, 2023 3:33:42 PM3 min read

Team leadership insights for small business owners

You’ve hired the right people—now you need to manage them. Your personality, values, skills, shortcomings, experience, goals and environment shape your leadership style.

Becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. Transitioning from working alone to leading people is a huge step, so give yourself grace as you develop new skills and time to understand the process.

Why strong leadership is important

It costs less to be a good leader and trust your team. Poor leadership can result in high turnover, low productivity and a bad company reputation. The classic saying is that people don’t quit jobs—they quit managers. It’s vital to attract and retain talent through strong leadership and proper training.

Skills every good leader needs

No matter your industry, every leader should be adaptable—a skill built by understanding yourself. If you realize you don't handle uncertainty well, explore why and discern steps to improve while finding positives.

Emotional intelligence is a skill with which leaders often struggle. Do you know how you come across? Are you aware of what’s happening around you or with your employees? If they are hesitant to approach you, consider why that is and what behaviours you display. Seeking feedback, self-awareness and reflection can help develop this skill. Practising small talk, building empathy, asking questions and active listening can promote connections too.

Foster meaningful relationships

Build engagement with your employees by being your authentic self and setting clear expectations. Emulate the behaviours you would like to see. What are you doing as a leader to prepare your team members for the situations they’ll face?

Remember that everyone has strengths and weaknesses—your employees are likely not as invested in your business as you. If you can see what qualities they bring, you can meet them where they’re at and provide guidance and examples that resonate. Regularly (monthly, quarterly or yearly) evaluate their performance based on factors like capability, focus, consistency, adaptability and enthusiasm.

You can lead by:

  • delegating (handing off tasks if they offer a learning opportunity or a team member is better at it)
  • coaching (asking questions and leading your team to solutions instead of providing answers or direction)
  • supporting (providing guidance and examples while being empathetic, reassuring and understanding if they are struggling or frustrated)
  • being directive (providing assistance and more detailed attention as you walk through instructions step by step)

Leadership communication practices

Solid communication complements the aforementioned skills, builds trust in your relationships and boosts efficiency, collaboration and motivation.

Become aware of the methods (like emails, phone or video calls, and face to face conversations) you use to communicate with your team because they all land differently. In-person meetings help your employees gauge your message’s tone. Difficult conversations should be in person and potentially followed up with a written summary of action items.

Improve psychological safety—your employees feel comfortable being themselves and can effectively contribute and learn without fear or hesitation—by accepting feedback gracefully: pause and consider. Is this person delivering feedback because things aren’t going well or because they trust you to honestly share what they think? Psychological safety encourages inclusion, engagement, performance and creativity—meaning employees are less likely to quit.

Lose the ego and be open to exploring other people’s ideas. Rely on your team to build the best output. Provide recognition and honest feedback to ensure employee development and well-being. How will you demonstrate you value their work?

Reflect on your qualities

Strong leaders are:

  • confident and humble
  • positive with a growth mindset
  • problem-solvers and conflict managers
  • creative thinkers, risk-takers, innovative and open-minded
  • curious and always learning
  • active listeners
  • clear communicators
  • inspirational and motivational
  • accountable, respectful, self-aware and trustworthy
  • eager and collaborative team players
  • decisive
  • adaptable
  • empathetic and compassionate

What skills do you have? Which ones do you need to develop? Self-reflection is key to becoming a positive leader who others want to work for.