Tip of the Month for September 2012

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Tip: Making the Leap from Entrepreneur to Successful Leader

The very assets that make entrepreneurs successful can turn into handicaps when their business ventures take off and they assume the role of boss. Going from being responsible for everything and being a hands-on player in every aspect of the business to having employees to supervise and delegate is a giant leap. Most of us make the transition in stages, but even so we have to adapt to change or we could end up sabotaging the success we’ve worked so hard to build.

There’s lots of help out there. This is not a new issue, and the smartest business owners know the benefits of learning from someone else’s often costly mistakes. You can begin by looking in the business section of your bookstore (bricks and mortar or online) or check out courses or seminars that are available at local business associations, business schools or colleges in your area.

In the meantime, here are a few ideas to help you determine how your personality can help or hinder your transition, and some ideas on how to side-step some of the biggest traps.

  • If you are a natural go-getter and tend to have very strong ideas about what you want, there’s a fairly good chance you find delegating difficult. Entrusting decisions affecting your company to someone else is a challenge if you have been responsible for everything since start-up. For delegating to work at all, it is important to recognize that trusting someone to get the job done correctly means relinquishing the right to micromanage. Everyone has their own working style. Hire people you believe have the necessary talent and skills, provide clear direction on the outcome, budget and timeline, and then step aside. Be available to answer questions or provide feedback, but leave how to tackle the job up to them. Trust and confidence in your employees are key.
  • Good leaders are consistent. That doesn’t mean you don’t change marketing strategy if conditions merit it; but it does mean that when plans and strategies are set and the implementation has begun, you don’t change your mind mid-course without some very solid reasons.
  • Your team needs a strong sense of purpose. It is up to you to make sure employees know why the products or services the company produces are important, and how each person is critical to the company’s success. Also, your employees need to know where you stand on core beliefs and values, and what is expected of them. A leader must be up front with all employees.
  • Entrepreneurs have high expectations of themselves (and others), and so it’s easy to forget that recognition for a job well done is important in the workplace. Regular performance reviews, constructive feedback and consistent methods of measuring and rewarding success are important to your employees. The old saying “praise publicly; critique privately” never goes out of style. Impulsive outbursts or scathing criticism usually create long-lasting harm and might damage relationships with employees you wish to retain.

Learning to let go, to manage employees and to evolve into a first-class business leader is not an overnight transition. Those who succeed are entrepreneurs who recognize that long-term business success requires an open mind and a willingness to continue to learn new business skills.


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