Over the years of building and running a software company, I’ve learned some valuable lessons on leadership, specifically as it relates to company culture and how to get the best out of your team.
Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. Admit When You Are Wrong
Admitting you’re wrong isn’t always easy, especially as it relates to business affairs. Many successful entrepreneurs are fearful that a poor decision will cost them credibility. Those folks need to change their mindset. Leading a team requires you to show them you are vulnerable and willing to take responsibility for poor decisions.
When your team hears you acknowledge your mistakes and show empathy, this builds their trust in you. It allows them to see that you are vulnerable and that no matter what, you have their backs. As an employee, hearing your boss not only admit to being wrong, but also apologize for it, is the difference between managing and leading. Your team needs leadership, not another manager. Celebrate your wins, and acknowledge your failures.
2. Fall on the Sword
It’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows, especially when you are working hard. Mistakes will happen, and that’s part of the growing process. Show your team that you will fall on the proverbial sword when push comes to shove. Push your team, but defend them at all costs. Do this in the open — on calls with clients, and wherever possible. Go out of your way to let them know that if they screw up, you will take the blame. It’s ultimately your responsibility anyway!
3. Show Empathy
It takes years to build a strong company culture. An entrepreneur’s ability to create a thriving and productive environment lives and dies on your capacity to feel empathy. If you can’t empathize with your team, you won’t be able to lead them properly. Empathy is one of the most important skills a company leader can have. A company is nothing without its people and retaining your best people while attracting new talent is your #1 responsibility. If you can’t empathize with them, you won’t be able to recognize when things aren’t going as planned.
4. Show Compassion
When you lead, lead with compassion. If you don’t fully understand and empathize with your team’s struggles, then how can you motivate them properly? Leadership is an exercise that requires constant attention. The executive team at Float Left Interactive holds one-on-ones with employees on a bi-weekly basis to understand how we can help them perform to the best of their abilities. Don’t forget that it’s your job to ensure that are happy and productive. Squash the issues as they come up.
4. Show Respect
Each person in your company has a unique life story and a lot to offer. It’s not always obvious on the surface so always show respect and treat them as equals. The team is everything!
It’s important to show your team that you are one of them; that, while you are responsible for running the company, you respect them as equals. I often tell my team that I respect them as professionals, regardless of the circumstances for a particular meeting. Once they understand that you truly do see each as equally important, employees will be more willing to open up and tell you what you need to hear.