Five tips to sharpen your leadership focus

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The role of company chief executive brings with it all sorts of challenges, from dealing with the nitty gritty of making decisions daily to formulating strategies to take your company forward.

That’s why it’s important to stay focused on the vital things which keep the wheels turning and the whole enterprise on track. Here are five things a CEO should stay focused on:

1. Real relationships

Real relationships with staff, with partners, with customers and with consumers all start with your everyday interactions.

As both a leader and a manager it is important to establish real relationships and engage your staff, starting with everyday interactions. How well do you know your staff, their families, what really motivates and inspires them?

I try to connect with members of the team each and every day and maintain an openness and transparency which enables real relationships.

After all, you are really a caretaker in terms of your leadership of people, teams and businesses and you want to ensure you grow and develop the team while you are leading them and that your relationships with those team members transcends your current role.

Every CEO has at some stage in their career reported to a manager and in my experience those managers/CEOs that have inspired and motivated me the most are those I have had a real connection with. Not “tick the box” type stuff but the real type – relationships which last and are based on mutual honest and respect.

Interestingly, all of my business mentors today are previous managers and all exhibit great integrity, openness and honesty – these are all based on foundations of real relationships.

Fifty per cent of employees have admitted they would leave their current job if they had the opportunity to being better recognised elsewhere.

2. Daily deep data

I start every day with an extra hot coffee and a review of the previous day’s figures. This is so important to understand how the week, the month, the quarter and the year is really looking. Anecdotal evidence is simply not sufficient in business today, and without being able to grasp the data you have little else.

I also expect my team to start the day with data (coffee optional), and find that a shared sense of where we are leads to a far more productive team and business and a more fulfilling work experience.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) analysis of the July 2012-June 2013 financial year indicated poor strategic management as the highest cause of business failure, with 42.2% of failed businesses nominating this as the key reason for closing their doors.

3. Absolute accountability

You must focus on the most important things and ensure your team has total accountability. While this is a common mantra, it is one which is often easier said than done. Too often the focus is on less important pieces of the business and we get too involved in areas where your team are more than capable (and it is their role) to make a decision or take an action.

Accountability will enable the team to learn how to fail (fast) and develop their skills along the way. While there are times where you may need to lend your expertise, try where possible to enable explicit accountability as it will help achieve a more scalable and successful business, and your team will be far more motivated, passionate and productive.

Understanding what needs to be achieved to reach a goal is important but ensuring that adequate accountability is in place is paramount. Too often I have seen ambiguous team goals that don’t stack up to business success and have led to underperformance.

As Stephen Covey noted, “accountability breeds response-ability” and I believe that accountability really breeds ability. You must own it.

4. Eat your own dog food

Love your product. You must know your product and use it – always!

I can always tell when I have a coffee from a barista who doesn’t drink coffee it just doesn’t seem to taste as good. I am using our products we provide every day, and businesses where the team use and love the products each and every day have a deeper level of understanding and a more productive output.

My pet hate is the team member who does not know our product in detail – there is absolutely no excuse in my experience for this being the case. If you feel good about your product, your consumers and customers will as well – which is great for business. You’ll also be your harshest critic and ensure you continue to move in a direction from mediocrity to perfection.

I had a recent example where we were working through a mobile solution and it just wasn’t panning out – loads of bugs and issues. The team found out that they were using a different advice to the majority of our users which was quickly fixed!

5. Enjoy yourself

Life is not a dress rehearsal. You must enjoy yourself and get the most out of work and business as you spend the majority of your daylight hours at work. I have been fortunate in that I have enjoyed almost every job I have had. When I haven’t, I have made a conscious decision to proactively move on to find something that I enjoy.

Enjoyment in the role will also increase your team’s motivation and, ultimately, the success of the business. I am yet to meet a successful leader who doesn’t enjoy what they do.

At the same time, you need to maintain a work-life balance – this work-life balance obviously differs by person – but at the end of the day family and extra-curricular activities keep your life in balance. These are things to be encouraged and promoted in the workplace rather than things to be guilty about.

Statistics show that happy employees stay twice as long in their roles as those who are dissatisfied.

Alex Parsons is the chief executive officer of RateCity.

This article first appeared on StartupSmart.

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