Updated: Sep 21
Written by: Peggy Niles, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Have you ever worked for someone that you considered a mentor? You looked forward to going to work; you were proud of your job; you even felt fulfilled. Likewise, have you ever worked for someone that got on your every last nerve? You dreaded when the alarm went off each morning; you felt like you were wasting your life; you even considered walking away from the money because of this person? What was the difference between the two people? Or was it you and the specific job?
Typically I find it’s the people you work with as opposed to the work you’re doing. I believe that behind every great leader is a great team, yet I often hear of CEOs dealing with “bad employees” or so many employee issues. What do you think this says – a bad leader? Bad employee? Doesn’t one affect the other? I believe it really is somewhat of a codependency that exists between the leaders and their team, so one can just as easily say behind every great team is a great leader.
Over the years working in the corporate and public accounting world, then in my own business consulting many CEOS, I discovered there are 3 things found in great leaders:
Leaders challenge their team members;
Leaders aren’t afraid of teaching their team members; and
A great leader welcomes the ideas of their team members.
Before I go into these, let me share a few examples from my career.
Early on in my career, I worked with an executive that basically made life miserable. Unfortunately, this executive had many HR complaints by many of his staff before and during my tenure at the company. I couldn’t understand why the company kept him around since he brought so many problems, but that’s a story for another day. A little background on his technique. He was a micro-manager, but not in a sense you would think when hearing the term. It was more, he constantly badgered the department members about the status of projects, questioned their every move, and enjoyed sitting around in meetings with no agendas and no results other than to slow things down.
Trying to grow within the company was like taking a bone from a dog; everyone in the department had very negative attitudes toward him, and therefore toward their job. His assistant’s position became a revolving door and the managers directly under him had health issues. I realized in later years that he taught me the art of negotiation and how not to manage team members.
On the opposite spectrum, years later, I experienced a partner in a firm I worked at who was all for encouragement, new ideas, collaboration. He appreciated and encouraged those who continually looked for ways to be more effective, to streamline workflow, and of course to improve the bottom line. He created a culture where people wanted to be and wanted to contribute. He understood if you wanted true growth and success, it took a team – he then demonstrated just that to his team of executives who pushed it down the line in the division. His team likewise appreciated the empowerment and success. What I took away from him was exactly how to be a leader and how to get things done with desired results.
As I mentioned, over the years working with executives, I have found three things great leaders have in common.
The first is that the leaders challenge their team members. If a business owner wants to accept the status quo or plateau at a certain level, then they can set certain minimum expectations of their team members and leave it at that. However, those leaders who dare to strive for more are those that don’t settle for or with anything, including their team members. These executives can identify the underlying strengths within each member and challenge them to build on those strengths and push them to do better regularly. The key is to challenge them in a way that’s letting them know you believe in them and what they can do, developing their confidence.
The second trait is that the leaders aren’t afraid of teaching their team members. This goes hand-in-hand with the thought process of hiring people who are smarter than you. The same type of fear creeps in when you aren’t a strong leader. What always worked for me is to hire for attitude and culture – I could teach the skills. I’m not necessarily saying you don’t want them to have any technical skills for the position you’re hiring, but you’ll want to spend time teaching them regardless.
Everyone takes a different path and you should always have something to teach your members…maybe it’s your process or your negotiation skills or communication styles, whatever. The idea is that you aren’t afraid to make your team members stronger because, in the end, it will build a better, sustainable company and take the reliance off of you. You will no longer have “bad employees” because you hired the right people and gave them the resources to do their work while creating an enjoyable environment.
Lastly, a great leader welcomes the ideas of their team members. As CEOs, we often like to believe we have all the answers OR maybe more to the point that we need to be the one with all the answers. That’s just not true. Ideas come best when they’re in the form of collaboration, and often from another perspective. The team working directly with the clients often see what’s working and what’s not faster than the CEO because they’re on the “front lines” so to speak; they hear more of what the customer dislikes, needs, or wants. Empower them with the opportunity to make suggestions, bring awareness and improve the systems and the company. Once again, you will be creating a welcoming culture, a unified team and … because everyone will seemingly be happier for the recognition and open environment while working toward the same goal, you will reach your vision faster.
Give yourself a few minutes…what kind of leader are you? Do you have these 3 characteristics? If not, how can you change things up?
Peggy Niles, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Peggy Niles is a Profit Strategist and Business Consultant who helps established business owners transform their companies from the daily grind to one that keeps running smoothly while the owner focuses on the things that matter most to them. She walks her clients through her 3-step Quantum Scaling System℠, a proven system to reach their 5 year goals in 12-24 months. With 30+ years of experience, she specializes in scaling strategies, leadership and process creation/management. Also, as a Certified Public Accountant by trade, Peggy always keeps an eye on the effect actions and strategies have on a business’ bottom line. She believes small business is the best way to make a difference in the world - that’s why she helps her clients grow and scale their companies, without the overwhelm or laboring endless hours, so they can fulfill their dreams and gain the freedom, and life, they’ve always wanted with the impact they deserve.