Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Dorothy Enriquez, @dorothy_writes She is Principal and Founder of The Communication Strategist (TCS), a Learning and Leadership Development Firm specializing in team building, development, and growth. Dorothy has been helping teams engage one activity at a time for almost two decades. Anyone interested in learning more about developing your leadership or developing your team can contact https://www.dorothyenriquez.com/
SmallBizLady: What is the importance of leadership within a small business?
Dorothy Enriquez: Leadership is particularly critical in small business because there’s more at stake when leadership goes wrong in this arena. In a corporate setting, there tends to be more checks and balances as well as more resources that are readily available to counterbalance and course-correct poor leadership. While, on the small business front, leadership gone awry could be the difference between hitting the numbers and a business losing their footing in the marketplace. Fundamentally, it makes dollars and sense to put leadership at the forefront of the to-do list.
SmallBizLady: Why does a small business leader need to constantly develop leadership skills?
Dorothy Enriquez: It’s imperative for small business leaders to make leadership a priority because their teams tend to be small but mighty. Honestly, small businesses and their leaders rise and fall on leadership. With a connection-based leadership style, small business leaders can get in front of issues and challenges, maintain morale and engagement as well as foster an environment of accountability, relationships, and results. With a commitment to leadership, small business owners can create culture codes that would make large organizations jealous.
SmallBizLady: Do small business leaders need to develop leadership skills even if they have no staff or team?
Dorothy Enriquez: Absolutely! Because at the end of the day, as a small business leader, you still have customers, clients, consultants, and contractors that are all partnering with you. And ultimately, the goal is not to always be in business alone. We weren’t created to pursue greatness solo; therefore, your vision would need to expand if it always only included you. But since it’s just you, it’s the perfect training ground.
SmallBizLady: What can leaders do to inspire their team within a small business environment?
Dorothy Enriquez: The number one way to find out the secret sauce that inspires your people is getting to know them. Spend time with your people! Facilitate 1:1 session. And take time to get to know each person, what makes them tick and tock as well as why they love what they do. This type of commitment to the people who truly help keep the lights on will help you gain insight, clues, and cues for how to inspire them. And of course, you can also have everyone take the Languages of Appreciation quiz.
SmallBizLady: Why is it important for leaders to encourage their staff or team to become leaders, even if they aren’t managing others?
Dorothy Enriquez: Everyone is a leader; even if you don’t have direct reports. Leadership is about influence. It’s our ability to inspire vision, innovation, collaboration, and the other elements that drive results through high-performing teams. When we don’t think of ourselves as leaders though, it gives us an out to not be accountable, step up to the plate and do our part. Because of our energy and how we show up is all part of our leadership and influence, it can absolutely impact the team. As humans, we take up space and how we show up could be a game-changer for better or for worse. When we realize that, we can take our leadership, and its evolution, more seriously.
SmallBizLady: How can leaders receive the training and development to grow and train their organizations with a limited budget?
Dorothy Enriquez: I recommend leveraging subscription services and local conferences. There are also online services like Lynda.com and SkillSoft that can serve as great plusses to regular development. I would also recommend building training and development into the budget with consultants who are willing to work in your budget and offer turnkey solutions to keep the pricing amenable versus custom content. Last but not least, offering a 3-year plan in which each employee over the three years gets to attend a developmental conference of their choice that aligns with their role that is 50-75% funded by the business as an added benefit. Ultimately though, it’s imperative to make development a priority. Because while you may be worried about your employee receiving development and leaving, you may want to consider the impact of them receiving no development and staying!
SmallBizLady: What are the three necessary traits a small business leader needs to have to contribute to their leadership success?
Dorothy Enriquez: A Willingness to Connect – as a small business leader, it’s important to understand that leadership is about influence. And one of the best ways to influence others is to build connections with your team through relationship. Connect then lead. Through connection, you’ll better understand others, and they will better understand you. So when rough times and mistakes occur, and they will, then forgiveness and grace passes can abound in order to still move the team and business forward.
Open to Feedback – This goes both ways. Be willing and committed to giving real feedback to your team and be open to the feedback flying back in your direction. Create a feedback model that works for you and your team and commit to creating a balance between positive and developmental feedback.
Commitment to Self-Awareness is key because you need to understand how you show up. Your business depends on your being self-aware and being congruent as a leader. Self-awareness will help you do the deep work of being consistent, always improving, and understanding where the gaps are. Because at the end of the day, you’re human, so it’s a process, not a project to become a successful leader year after year.
SmallBizLady: What would you suggest to a leader that is afraid or uncomfortable with public speaking but is the face of their small business?
Dorothy Enriquez: If you’re afraid of public speaking, try practicing in small ways whenever you can. Maybe share some insights in a small group. Attend an event and be the first to ask a question. Go to a networking event and commit to meeting 3 new people. These things are designed to build your confidence, but the key to being able to get through a public speaking experience when you’re afraid is preparation. I can’t stress that enough. When you prepare, you’ll be more likely to get those butterflies to fly in formation. And last but not least, I can always help you with my custom 1:1 public speaking workshop: Finding Your Voice. And you can join your local Toast Masters chapter to help bolster your public speaking skills as well.
SmallBizLady: What are three major barriers small business leaders may experience, and how should they work to overcome them?
Dorothy Enriquez: Personal Development as a Leader – this is often cast aside due to budget or time constraints. However, leadership is not something that evolves magically. You must work at it and sharpen your skills through development. Your small but mighty team is counting on you to show up and be counted in the marketplace.
Understanding Areas of Opportunity – When a small business leader makes excuses for gaps and poor behavior, the bottom line is impacted. As leaders, we all have gaps that we can commit to working on by engaging in self-development, receiving coaching, and participating in small business support groups/networks to create balance in your leadership.
Creating Open Dialogue – Oftentimes, small business leaders are pressed on all sides and find themselves disseminating orders, information, and strategy without opening the feedback loop to ensure team comprehension and clarity. This causes quite a bit of confusion, and depending on the culture and dynamics; the leader may not find out until project deadlines or quality starts to slip. By fostering regular open dialogue, small business leaders can avert this pitfall more often than leaders who don’t. There will still be challenges, of course, but at least they can be identified sooner than later.
SmallBizLady: How can small business leaders regain leadership once it’s lost?
Dorothy Enriquez: It is indeed possible, but it’s challenging. It all begins with being humble and transparent before your team. This is challenging because often, we don’t want to set our pride aside for the sake of the business initiatives and the team. However, this will be required in order to reignite what will be required to re-establish a high performing team, especially if you’ve got the right people, and they are in the right role. You’ll want to host a retreat and perhaps bring in an external coach/consultant to help things flow, recalibrate expectations and air out the touchy/sensitive areas that caused the rift in the first place. But as the leader, you will need to commit to showing up differently, being the change you want to see and truly putting your people first in order to successfully transform the culture and demonstrate a true shift in your leadership. Keep in mind, it will be like turning the Titanic so you will want to give yourself and your team some grace. And if budget allows, sign yourself up for some executive coaching as you navigate these new waters. The easy out would be to turn over your entire team and begin again, but when you’re willing to do the deep work, enlist others to help you steer the ship.
How should small business leaders evaluate their success as leaders?
Dorothy Enriquez: They can leverage engagement surveys. If their small business is large enough, they can have skip levels, which allow for an employee to skip a level and provide feedback in a safe way. A 360 could also be leveraged if it makes sense, and there are enough people on the team to assess the feedback. But if the team is 7 people or less including the leader, have the conversations directly or leverage a team activity in which everyone can provide open, honest feedback to one another anonymously using flip charts or note cards.
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