Why Your Leadership Skills Have To Change As Your Startup Scales Up
Starting a business is often simultaneously one of the most terrifying and rewarding experiences that a person can take part in. Part of running a successful company, though, is adapting over time to changes that your business experiences.
This is especially true when it comes to leadership. Running a company that consists of you and two employees is far different than being in charge of a business that has 50-plus employees whose roles span different tiers.
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about tech entrepreneur leadership.
In The Beginning
In your company’s early months (or even years), the lines between you and other employees are often blurred. A small group with the same mission to launch a SaaS solution or build a hardware prototype will likely communicate fairly casually with each other. There won’t be any formal departments, and management meetings will most likely take place via text or Slack.
As long as productivity metrics are still being hit, there often isn’t an issue with running your business in this manner. In fact, this will likely be the most intimately you ever know your employees due to the sheer amount of time you spend in close proximity to them.
As time goes on, though, you’ll find that a disconnect begins to form between you and your workers. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, office spaces would get bigger, doors would close during meetings and face time with each person began to dwindle to a fraction of what it once was. Post pandemic, the disconnect is even greater, as many employees are working remotely, teams are siloed on Slack and videoconferences are held in moderation to keep productivity high.
Some entrepreneurs at this stage even begin to shift their focus to performance over employee well-being, causing a rift between themselves and their workers that could lead to negative consequences (such as on-the-spot quitting) down the road.
Fortunately, though, there are steps you can take in order to adapt to the changes you’ll experience as your company grows.
Let’s take a look at some of the most notable.
Become A Better Listener
In order to guide your employees in a way that will benefit both them and your company, you’ll need to improve your listening skills.
In addition to actually processing what your employees are telling you, you’ll need to convey your attentiveness with your body language (yes, even on video chats!). This means you should set everything you’re currently working on aside, maintain eye contact and ask open-ended questions that give your employees a chance to voice their opinion.
Even if you’re in a period where you don’t particularly have a ton of time to speak with someone, remember that the conversation is happening because they need to speak to you about something they’re concerned about.
Afterward, give them a definitive answer on what can be done to resolve their issue. If there isn’t an apparent solution that can be worked toward, ask them to come up with one on their own and explain that you’ll meet with them again when they’ve formulated a set of paths to take.
Create Peer Networks
As companies grow, it’s common that certain employees begin to feel excluded. For example, a small team that’s worked together with the owner for a handful of years may unintentionally isolate newer recruits or those in different roles as the company scales.
Developing peer networks, though, is a great way to allow people from different roles and tiers of management to interact with each other.
The good news here is that you can create these groups based on any sort of attribute, such as mentoring programs for new employees who can gain insight from chats with folks outside their assigned department.
These types of groups and interactions get people from diverse areas of your company to discuss a common talking point, issue, project, etc. Otherwise, you run the risk of employees who feel isolated never performing up to their potential.
Foster The Professional Growth Of Your Employees
It can be difficult for employees to remain motivated if they feel like they’ve hit a professional roadblock while working at your company. And this situation doesn’t require a negative occurrence in order to happen.
For example, an advertising firm’s art director may wish to explore a relevant avenue in account management. Although there may not be an open position (or even open obligations) for them to take, you could work with them in order to alleviate this feeling of being trapped or lost in their career.
In this particular scenario, you could allow your art director to communicate directly with clients regarding the creative content your firm produces. Your current account managers will still fulfill their roles, and your art director will be able to gain new experience in a different area of concentration.
The key point to remember here is that employees who express interest in trying something new or are adjusting their role will often put forth a notable amount of effort, which will result in a direct benefit for your company’s productivity.
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