Being a leader (as opposed to just being “the boss”) means that you are part of your team instead of seeing yourself being above your team, looking down on it from on high. That being said, it’s still up to you to be the one at the wheel, steering everyone toward the same goal.
That’s a lot of responsibility. And a lot of work. Let’s see if we can make being a leader a little easier for you by identifying seven areas where you might be getting in your own way.
Some leaders are extremely reluctant to give negative feedback. They’re hesitant to point out errors that their team members are making while working on a project.
The problem is that this thinking is incorrect – feedback that helps an employee do a better job is not negative. It’s positive. It’s aiding your employee in doing work that requires less and less critiquing as time goes on. This means that, with each tweak you recommend, the employee is going to grow in confidence regarding their role in your company.
Don’t be afraid to point out errors and offer solutions. Your employees are going to prefer this over silence or seeing you spending hours correcting errors that they could have avoided if they had known what you wanted in the first place.
2. Leadership is a role unto itself.
When you’re starting your own firm or you’re promoted within a firm you work for it’s a mistake to think that you’re automatically a great leader. Leadership does not equal rank.
Leadership is a whole job unto itself which requires you to learn an entire new skillset. You’re no longer just “one of the guys” but in a bigger office, you’re now a person everybody on your team is going to be looking to for a sense of how they’re contributing to the big picture.
The ability to provide the big picture to your team will play a large part in your ability to steer your employees. If you demonstrate that you have a clear plan in mind about how everyone is going to help the firm reach specific goals they’re going to be much more open when you offer critiques.
On the other hand, if they can’t see that there’s a plan, they’re going to think that you’re micromanaging and they will come to resent you.
When you become a leader, understand that it is a job that you will have to learn; it’s not just a title that will command instant respect.
3. Employee relationships.
When you become a leader you’re now going to be the go-to gal or guy for your employees in a number of situations. For example, you’ll now be the person they want to talk to when they explain that something from their personal life is having an impact on their work.
You’ll also be the person that they share new ideas with concerning how to tweak work flows, how to attract new clients, that maybe it’s time to dump a problem client, and so on.
Make sure your door is always open to your team members. You don’t want to miss out on any info, be it positive or negative, that can impact your firm.
Even better, schedule time each week for everyone to have a chance to speak. This can be a weekly group meeting, or one-on-one meetings where it’s all about your employee feeling free to tell you whatever’s on their mind.
Also in this category: understand that your employees (or not all of them anyway) are there strictly for the money. Some of them (ideally all of them) are there because they also want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Some want to enjoy a family-like atmosphere at work. Others want to be in on the ground floor of a firm that grows into something big. Getting to know what each individual employee craves in their job can go a long way in getting the best possible work out of them.
New leaders are often wary of handing off work. They’re used to the confidence in quality that comes from doing the work themselves.
The problem is that leadership comes with its own checklist of duties, and chances are that you’re not going to be able to get them all done as well as doing the full routine of accounting duties.
Trust your team to get it right. That’s what workflow systems are for – they let you set up exactly how you want files to be handled each and every time. With the proper documented systems in place you’re going to be confident that the work is being done your way.
5. Setting goals.
Goals are incredibly important to your process of becoming a strong leader. You should be setting goals that you want to reach in 1 year, 5 years, and so on. You then want to break these goals down into manageable parts, making these parts milestones that can be reached on a monthly basis.
It’s a huge boost to morale for your team members to be able to see how each file they get done is inching the firm closer to a finish line for a monthly or yearly goal. Without those goals the work their doing is just part of a depressing never-ending cycle.
6. Be your ideal employee.
A leader sets the tone for their firm. If you want a family feel to your team, then be Mom or Dad. If you want the office to be strictly business, then be the no-nonsense example you want your employees to follow.
Remember that office cultures are felt by your clients as well as your employees. So whatever appearance you want your firm to present to your clients, present that appearance to your team members. Dress the part. Decorate the office to reflect the vibe you’re going for. Even the kind of car that you drive can make an impact.
7. Hire right.
Don’t rush your hiring process, even if you’re enjoying a big increase in your workload.
For one thing, if you hire the wrong person you’re going to be out a lot of money, plus you’re going to have to pay severance, plus you’re going to have to go through the whole process again.
Also, if you hire below your firm’s level of quality then you’re going to be investing a lot of time into bringing that new hire up to speed. But the whole point of the new hire was to help you keep up with an increased workflow. So you’ll be, in essence, cancelling out the new hire by losing all that time to attempting to ramp them up.
Finally, when you hire someone you’re hiring every interaction they’ll ever have with you, your other employees, and (depending on their position) with your clients. The ability to be a positive force within your team is as important as their accounting skillset. A negative person is going to drag morale down, which will slow your productivity, which again negates the whole point of hiring a new person in the first place.
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