Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Susan Axelrod again features a female entrepreneur and her lessons learned about building a business and leading successful teams.
I started my bakery business, Love and Quiches Gourmet, in my home kitchen in 1973, purely by accident; from just one quiche. I was a clueless suburban housewife with no preparation whatsoever for business ownership. My only qualification was my passion for everything connected to food. I was a very good cook and was cajoled into starting the business by a carpool friend, an equally great cook.
We had no plan, we simply started. We made up some quiches, took them to a few local businesses, and before we knew it we had one customer, then two, and then ten. Adding desserts soon followed. By the end of the first year we were servicing about thirty restaurants, and took the giant step of incorporating and moving into our first tiny storefront where we hired one or two employees, and continued to grow.
We were the Keystone Kops Quiche Factory; two steps back for every step forward. My partner cried uncle shortly after so I bought her out and quickly realized this little business had a will and a pull of its own. I wanted to stick around though, to see how the movie ended. That was forty years ago.
I hired an accountant, and started asking a lot of questions of my customers, my suppliers, my newfound mentor, my peers, my competitors (who didn’t know I was watching), … and I learned from my mistakes, a vastly underestimated learning tool. And this was all before the dawn of the computer age. At the time, I was a one-man band; baker, buyer, salesman, porter and delivery guy.
Across the decades, we grew in concentric circles; Metro New York, Metro Tri-State, up and down the Eastern Seaboard, across the Continent, then across the globe. There were as many obstacles thrown in our path along the way as there were victories. There was brutal competition, key customer loss, key employee loss, location moves and so on. But many obstacles were beyond our control; commodity spikes, 9/11 after which the economy came to a dead halt, the Great Recession among them.
When looking back at it all, one thing stands out. It is after 9/11 that the business had its “Aha” moment and we reinvented ourselves and our business model; with Just-In-Time and Lean Manufacturing methods.
But, by far, our greatest achievement was the rebuilding of our organization from the bottom up— with strong high performance teams, and equally strong directors and middle management.
Our employees are our greatest asset and are valued insiders, each skilled in their particular area. We built it slowly through a combination of promoting from within and bringing in outside talent when needed. They are a passionate group— we have the right people on the bus, and in the right seats.
At Love & Quiches Gourmet we have eight teams- Operations, Quality Assurance and Food Safety, Engineering, Purchasing and Logistics, Research and Development, HR, Administration, and Sales and Marketing. These teams are all cogs in a wheel with its members highly dependent upon the other; keenly aware that one weak link can bring it all to a grinding halt. Some companies promote healthy competition… I think teamwork is healthier. And even more importantly, mutual respect and tolerance during conflict resolution (there will always be differing points of view; after all, this is a business and not a love affair).
We communicate with daily huddles, weekly management and executive meetings, team building, ongoing training, and more. We do not talk down to our employees; we need them. Communication is crucial to keeping us focused and all on the same page. By inviting input across the board, the ideas keep coming.
As a private company, there are fewer layers in our decision making which helps us compete with the giants. We are known for our flexibility and receptiveness to new ideas. From the top we set strategic direction, but our teams provide the “meat and potatoes” that bring the results. All 250 of us have “skin in the game”.
I have chronicled my forty year journey in my recently published business memoir, “With Love and Quiches: A Long Island Housewife’s Surprising Journey from the Kitchen to the Boardroom” where I emphasize organizational development in chapters devoted to our transition to lean and mean, next leveling, and company culture, all told from the Love and Quiches Gourmet experience.
We have come a long way, and it has been a great ride. I take pride that it was my product that put quiche on the map, now served on menus all over the world. And it was my devoted, hardworking and experienced team that got us there.
About the Author: Susan Axelrod and the word “pioneer” go together like cake and frosting! As the Chairwoman and Founder of Love & Quiches Gourmet, Susan’s journey has paved the way for women entrepreneurs. She started her business with no formal training, only a passion for food. Coupled with her energy and tenacity, Susan was able to take her small business, worldwide. Today, these desserts and quiches are found in restaurants and retailers around the globe. Susan chronicles her experiences in her blog, Susan’s Sweet Talk and her book, With Love & Quiches: A Long Island Housewife’s Surprising Journey from Kitchen to Boardroom.
Let me start by saying that no, this isn’t some 50 Shades of Grey reference in an attempt to capitalize on it’s odd popularity.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the impact a shortage of women in crucial management and executive levels can have on a company’s culture and treatment of it’s female employees. But I’m not going to spend time in this article going on and on about why this is needed, even though I do believe it is, because ultimately, it makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite. You see, for all my conviction, I don’t want to step up and be in management myself.
I have zero desire to manage employees or a company. None. I don’t want to “Lean In” as it were. I’m not really entrepreneurial minded. It’s not because I am being pushed out by a male dominated industry, wanting to raise a family, or any other legitimate and concerning reason there aren’t more women in executive roles. In the end, management is just not something that I personally want to do.
And to be honest, I’m tired of feeling guilty about not wanting it. On all sides of the issue is guilt. If you have kids but want to work, you are a bad mother/wife. If you don’t push for management you are slacking and are not doing your part for other women. There are no winners in this game; there is only more societal pressure and insecurity that holds us back from living our lives the way we want to. I know I’m not alone in this either.
But as much as we truly do need women in management, important public positions where they make the decisions, management is not the only path to leadership and influence. All women, regardless of their career level, employment status, personal beliefs and convictions, can be leaders in their own way. All women can have influence, even if it is only within their own circle of friends or family. All women can choose to speak for themselves and be advocates for others. Every one of us has that power and should use it. Frequently.
Leadership and influence is not solely for those in positions of power. I don’t have to be a manager to influence the culture and direction of a team. But it sure does help to have someone in a position of power to help back me up. So how about we make a deal? I’ll will be an advocate for other women in the workplace and I will encourage others to do the same, if some of you out there with the desire and drive to be in those positions of power promise to listen to our collective voices and help enact real change. Sound good to you?
About the author: Shauna is an HR professional with a diverse work history, a Master’s degree, and a PHR certification. She is also a huge geek, social media advocate, and infectious giggler. Besides being a co-founder of the Women of HR she also serves as the current Ringmistress of the Carnival of HR and is the former co-host of the HR Happy Hour blogtalk radio show.
Diversity. What does it mean to you (aside from a pretty handy street dance troupe)? It’s an important topic to mull over because the modern workplace is expected to employ a diverse workforce, with HR departments obviously playing a crucial role in the process.
But as with so many valuable concepts, the risk of the principle being lost in the rhetoric and its substance replaced by an empty corporate buzz word is high. As HR employees – dealing with the people behind the labels – it is our duty to clarify the recruitment process we are expected to implement and highlight any practical issues that arise.
Diversity and the ‘tick box’ culture
One of the measures of a diverse workplace is how closely it reflects the make-up of the society in which it operates. This has led to government statisticians compiling lists of percentages where citizens are divided into their ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation and numerous other categories and the numbers compared – often unfavourably – with the make up of the company.
If we’re not careful, this can lead to diversity being treated as another item to be included on a growing list of corporate targets. ‘Do we have a disabled guy? Good. Five per cent ethnic minorities? Great. We’re running at 55-45 gender split though; need to even that up a bit.’
Here we stray into that contentious issue of ‘positive discrimination’, and whether it is ever right to recruit someone on the basis of their age, gender, sexual orientation or cultural background. Whatever your position about that, it is a very real dilemma that the Human Resource department has to grapple with – diversity in the real world rather than a utopian concept.
Do we still have an appetite for diversity?
Recent world events have even cast doubts on the value of diversity itself. Struggling economies have led to high levels of unemployment and the accusation by some disgruntled citizens that their jobs are being taken by people from minority backgrounds. And there is no doubt that recruiters in many fields have sought to actively import talent where there is a perceived lack of it from amongst the local employment pool.
With the media highlighting the negative aspects of muticulturalism and the dangers of excessively liberal policies, and the rise of nationalist parties in the political sphere, even the politicians’ are displaying quite schizophrenic behaviours as they reflect the public’s ambivalence over diversity.
Companies as diversity in action
The modern workplace, to varying degrees, mirrors the situation in society at large. People from different backgrounds come together for a common cause and while there are inevitably culture clashes and disagreements there is also a lot of solidarity and shared identity. A company’s success seems often to be related to the extent to which its workforce has been integrated, enabling everyone to pull together. But is there more that a diverse workplace can offer up?
Attack of the Clones
In our drive for diversity, we must ensure that the people we recruit are given the support and freedom to actually express their unique qualities and perspectives. In a modern workplace we need to utilise the full richness of each individual’s experience and tap into their irreplaceable skills and strengths, if we are to remain relevant and competitive as a unit.
Employees are not just representatives of particular demographics in society, they are living, communicating windows into the minds and hearts of the people who share significant elements of their background. If one of our employees uses a wheelchair, he or she will be invaluable in assessing how accessible our company is to other wheelchair users. If a female employee objects to the chauvanistic workplace culture then ignore her at your peril. It is highly likely that sexism is coming across in our products and services, alienating women in society.
In some ways, a diverse company is a gift which gives us the opportunity to interact with society at a deeper, more inclusive level. But we must still make the most of the richness at our disposal by treating employees as respected individuals. Otherwise we risk creating a sham diversity rather like the clone troopers in the Star Wars stories. Here, the individual troopers are largely identified by surface differences alone (hairstyle, uniform trim, etc.) to compensate for the fact that they are all cloned from one source.
Is diversity still on the menu? Absolutely, but only the best restaurants can combine all of the flavours into one appetizing dish.
About the Author: Nicole Dominique Le Maire has gained a reputation as a highly valued leader within the female business and Human Resources Industry. As a multi-talented woman entrepreneur and a global people connector, she is also the co-author of two books, including “The Female Leader.” As a result, she has gained tremendous experience guiding startups and entrepreneurs which has supplemented her MBA, MAHRM, and MCIPD and this has catapulted her to become one of the top leaders in the Human Resources industry. Get in touch via twitter @NicoleLeMaire or one of the business websites, humanresourcesglobal.com, newtohr.com, thefemaleleader.biz
Throughout the years, women have faced – and continue to face – numerous challenges when it comes to succeeding in business. Yet despite significant challenges, female leaders are becoming more and more common – and they’re making a positive and powerful impact on society.
What are some characteristics that great women leaders share? We’ve put together a list of 5 of the best traits of powerful female leaders, as well as a few inspirational quotes from real women who are paving the way for future generations – in politics, business and beyond.
“Hope and change are hard-fought things.” – Michelle Obama
1. They work hard
Women who excel in leadership roles have a clear vision of what they want and what they need to do to get there. Their personal and professional goals are important to them, and obtaining success (whatever that means to them) is at the top of their list. They’re aware that it takes hard work and commitment to succeed, and they’re willing to work to achieve it.
Women leaders often need to juggle multiple roles or balance different areas of life in order to focus on their careers and professional aspirations. But they know with complete clarity what they want, and they’re willing to do what it takes to get there. The enthusiasm and strength these women possess is apparent to all who meet them, in both professional and personal settings.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you.” – Oprah Winfrey
2. They recognize their own strengths (and weaknesses)
Great women leaders have a strong understanding of their own gifts, and they understand the significance of these strengths and the role they play in their ability to succeed. Great leaders know what they can do well, and they use these assets to their advantage to help them excel in what they want to do.
Conversely, great women leaders also know their own weaknesses. Instead of letting weaknesses limit them, however, great leaders surround themselves with people who can support them and make them better.
“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” – Rosalynn Carter
3. They take risks
The greatest women leaders are confident in making decisions, even when those decisions are difficult or represent big risks. They rarely procrastinate or hesitate, and they are are remarkably assertive and influential. They don’t wait for direction – they jump in and get things done. They’re known for coming up with innovative solutions, because they aren’t afraid to take big risks or question rules and regulation in order to get the results they want.
Perhaps most importantly, as Margaret Thatcher reminds us below? Great women leaders aren’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers when it comes to getting things done.
“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.” – Margaret Thatcher
4. They welcome change and challenges
Successful women leaders don’t just embrace challenges – they face them head-on. Moreover, they are excellent listeners, they seek out feedback, and they are genuinely interested in what others have to say about the issues they are faced with. Highly respected women listen to multiple points of views before they decide on the best possible decision.
Great women leaders welcome challenges, but they also welcome change. Women who are frontrunners in any industry embrace change, because they know that true progress can only be achieved through adaptation and innovation.
“I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.” – Nadia Comaneci
5. They have a strong desire to make a difference
All great leaders, regardless of gender, should be kindhearted and giving of themselves. This is a trait that’s even more evident in great women leaders, in every field and from all walks of life. Truly successful leaders not only have an incredible desire to lead, but also to help others and make a difference.
The most successful female leaders believe in the value of paying it forward, and they practice what they preach.
“I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness.” – Mother Teresa
What characteristics do you think great women leaders share?
We women in HR definitely have plenty to say about what managers can (and should) do to be more effective.
In fact, we’re often so overwhelmed with what a few of our business or functional managers did and didn’t do, that we don’t know where to start. I have worked in the HR field, as a consultant in the areas of performance management and leadership development, and have plenty of crazy stories about leadership gaps observed by HR generalists–mostly women. These gaps range from legal exposures of all kinds to managers de-motivating, or failing to develop and retain employees. Although the outliers are only a small percentage, most leaders we know could do a lot better at the things we know most about.
After researching and writing a book about workplace feedback, I am giving myself feedback about how I give feedback. Over the years, I have learned a lot.
A few important conclusions:
1. I wish I had been more honest and directive in my earlier days of HR consulting. When leaders asked me to do something that I thought wasn’t such a great idea, I was too accommodating, figuring my role was to “support management” by helping them do what they wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong; I never accommodated anything illegal or immoral. It was more like I said OK to things like training supervisors and low-level managers in a particular leadership skill, but letting the top executives get away with no training, buy-in or evidence of the skill themselves. Later, I pushed back at hare-brained requests and said–”Based on my experience, this won’t work.” My advice: Say what you know, loud and clear, upfront. I promise you, you will be MORE, rather than less respected for it. Of course you will give a business rationale, but don’t hold back your expertise.
2. I need to spend more time coaching leaders, because change is hard. Explaining everything once or twice won’t work. If they are adopting a new mindset and new behaviors, they will need many, many visits with you, to talk through what they are trying, what works, what doesn’t work, and how to address the setbacks. Focus each conversation on one or two things they plan to do differently, not a whole universe of competencies that would require a personality transplant. My advice: Plan a series of many incremental coaching conversations with leaders you are helping.
3. What I know from the HR field is beneficial to business and I need to shout that from the rooftops! People from other functions tend to roll their eyes when the topic of HR comes up. Part of that is something we can change, if we do a better job of linking everything we give feedback on to their specific goals. I used to think that things like performance development and career development had obvious benefits for a leader’s goals, but I know now that I need to explain that linkage in no uncertain terms. For example, a manager’s feedback to employees, done earlier and more often, helps people learn from mistakes and positively impacts the team’s goals. Duh! We need to repeat that and explain it in a way that each leader understands. My advice: Be the one responsible for communicating the linkage of people strategies to business success.
4. I will not always receive an immediate pat on the back for what I recommend, and that’s OK. What I learned is to align my work to my knowledge and experience about what optimizes the business through people. When I have done this, I have actually received MORE kudos than when I agreed with a suboptimal approach. Whether it was in the area of hiring right, designing a better leadership program, or facilitating a strategy session, everyone got better results when I trusted my expertise. My advice: Be your own positive reinforcement for your decisions and recommendations, and others will follow!
You are a talented leader in your field. Allow yourself to fully contribute to your organization’s goals, through HR!
About the Author: Anna Carroll, MSSW, is an organization development consultant, facilitator, coach, and speaker. She designs and leads training and group planning experiences and creates learning tools and assessments to speed up group success. Most recently Carroll has focused on the power of feedback loops and how leaders and team members can overcome their barriers to exchanging valuable feedback in the workplace. Her book, The Feedback Imperative: How to Give Everyday Feedback to Speed Up Your Team’s Success, was published in July 2014 by River Grove Press. Her website is www.EverydayFeedback.com. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband Michael Wilkes.
It’s about a week and a half since the 2014 version of the HR Technology Conference wrapped up in Las Vegas. I once again had the opportunity to attend as part of the social media & blogging team, my second time attending the full conference. I continue to be impressed by the sheer size of the conference, as well as the variety of topics and tracks available. It’s a conference that’s not just about seeing new technologies or new iterations of existing technologies available to help with our HR needs (though there is plenty of that if that’s what you’re looking for). But it goes beyond that to offer insights into HOW various companies are leveraging the technology available to address their HR challenges, and WHY we, as HR practitioners, need to be not just aware, but knowledgeable enough to be able to make recommendations as to how our organizations can leverage existing and yet to come technologies to maximize the effectiveness of our employees and drive success for our companies.
I have to admit that I walked away from this year’s conference a little overwhelmed. You see, I come from an interesting, dual viewpoint. In my day to day job as it currently exists, I don’t have much opportunity to work with or make decisions about the technologies we currently have in place. So to take what I hear and learn about at the conference and put it into perspective from a real-life, day to day, life in the trenches outlook becomes a bit of a challenge. But as a blogger, and someone who is (at least I like to think) a big picture and future focused thinker, I’m fascinated by what’s happening in the space. So this conference becomes a place where I’m soaking in as much as I can for my own benefit, while at the same time trying to pull it all together, step outside of my day-to-day responsibilities, and think about and share what I’ve learned from a much bigger perspective. And that can be a little overwhelming, but in a very good way.
You see, that feeling of being overwhelmed is a sign to me that it’s critically important for me to be at this conference. And it’s a sign that it’s probably important for many more HR practitioners, who are not that much different than me, to be there as well. Because even though we might not be responsible for technology in our day to day jobs now, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t become more knowledgeable. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make it our business to understand what’s out there and how it could make us more efficient and effective. Maybe more of us need to take the reins in our organizations and help drive decisions about how technology could and should make our processes and functions better drivers of business success.
Though I didn’t have the opportunity to attend it, there was quite a bit of buzz around the conference and on social media about one of Jason Averbrook’s (Chief Innovation Officer at Appirio) sessions in which he offered this bit of advice and wisdom: “We are all technologists.”
Think about that. What that’s saying is that as HR professionals, we have an obligation to understand technology. We live in a world where technology is everywhere, and is constantly changing, and we have a responsibility to ensure what happens inside our organizations mirrors the reality of the world outside of our organizations. And if we as HR leaders, and our HR teams, don’t have the skills to be technologists, we need to start teaching ourselves and our teams those skills. The HR Technology Conference is a place where we can come to ensure that we stay abreast of what’s happening in the space. Is all of right for every organization? No, of course not. Do we have a responsibility as HR leaders to understand the key trends so that we can make informed decisions about what’s best for our individual organizations? You bet.
Check back later this week when I’ll share some of the key themes I picked out from this year’s show.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
What does the word “technology” do to your blood pressure when you hear it? How about “digital space?” “Social media?”
Your answer may be different depending on a few things:
- Your age;
- Your geography;
- Your career choice; and possibly,
- Any expectations you’ve been given for using (or not using) technology.
For the record, I’m 53. I’m an HR professional – I am in banking, now for 13+ years, healthcare for 5 years prior, and in small business for 7+ years, with an even earlier working stint in the public welfare sector. I remember when the fax machine came out – I was ecstatic over the ability to move information faster, but had to wait until some of our vendors and clients “caught up” and caught on to the efficiency. I remember when I refused to use a computer mouse – I told my husband, “why should I, when I have all the function buttons memorized?” Remember F1, F2, F3?
I remember calling my husband (he was so tech-savvy back then!) from work so he could teach me this thing called ‘mail merge.’ Once I had a staff of 35 employees, I wasn’t going to type and retype names & addresses in my quarterly employee newsletter. And finally, did anyone delete all those requests back around the years 2002 – 2005 to “connect with your colleague Joe Schmoe” on something called LinkedIn? Yes. I did. I deleted them.
I live in the conservative Midwest, and in a smaller community. Hence, our population in general may be behind in the learning curve and usage of social media. My age group is, too – I’m often frustrated because I seem to still have close friends (who live thousands of miles away) who refuse to use social media. Any of it. I occasionally get a phone call, “did you know that Susie is fighting thyroid disease? No one told me, I’m so upset.” And actually, Susie posted the information herself on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere in the digital world. Ce la vie.
At a recent round table of HR banking professionals in my home state, we gathered to discuss HR topics. One of our frustrations was our trade association’s change of communication from a list-serv email to their website. To ask questions and share dilemmas with colleagues, we need to now learn something new. And different. And that is hard – for everyone. We HR professionals had to take a (difficult) look in the mirror and do what we often coach others to do – get with the program, learn new technology, adapt to change. Tough one.
I have to say, even for an “oldster,” I was surprised to hear that some of my HR colleagues still use paper applications when recruiting, aren’t engaged in the digital space, and aren’t on LinkedIn. I believe I also heard some of our collegial competitors still discourage internet usage and social media usage in the workplace. For me, I found that sad – even freely stating that I was NOT an early adopter, and I am still fairly tech-UNsavvy.
I contend that for HR to earn that proverbial seat at the executive level table (aka the C-suite), HR professionals need to be disruptors. Using social technologies can be disruptive and when learned and used in a positive way, a change agent. We need to question the status quo, make some decisions then ask for forgiveness, and we need to step up and lead. Human Resources has been administrative – almost forever, right? The “Personnel” departments of old were there to support operations, process paperwork, deliver payroll, file employee records, administer benefit programs, and write policies.
We still serve some of those administrative needs, but HR can be so much more to the organization. We need to ask the question “Why?” Why are we doing it this way, why aren’t we adapting new technologies, why don’t we invest in an HRIS? From my small corner of the world, we can help drive cultural shifts and mentalities, albeit slowly, and often with much assistance from other business drivers. Some of that comes from learning to use technology – it’s not going away.
Here are some ideas for HR professionals to consider:
- Have an open mind to change. Most of us no longer hand out cash on pay day, and many of us no longer hand out paper paychecks either. We have electronic means of delivering pay, so why wouldn’t we want to move along that continuum with everything HR does? From recruiting to performance management, HR is getting electronically delivered out there in many places – more efficiently, and often more effectively.
- Get social. Take a look, in your off-time, at the social spaces out there. LinkedIn is NOT just a tool people use for a job search. Not anymore. Ease into social media, one place at a time. It can be overwhelming. Join Facebook and just look around for a while. You don’t have to post. Same with LinkedIn – see what other HR professionals are doing in the social space. There are a ton of HR blogs out there, many are fabulous to read, and provide good tips. Seek out one you like and follow them for a bit to get a feel.
To move the Human Resources profession up, each of us has a responsibility to be continuous learners, and mostly, to learn to live in the digital spaces. Good luck! You can do this!
[One of these days, I might even get that blog started…. Yes, change happens slowly.]
About the Author: Dorothy Douglass is Vice President of Human Resources & Training at MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution. She began her career with Mutual in 2001 as Human Resources Manager, and is a graduate of Ball State University. She is proud to have been in Human Resources now for more than 17 years and is continuing to “lean in” and working to influence the “people management” side of her organization. She is passionate about managing and developing people; and I have yet to be bored in 13+ years in her current job. She considers herself fairly tech-UN-savvy, though has immersed herself in Facebook and LinkedIn. She’s still working on the Twitter-sphere & has goals to blog more in 2014.
Building a team is not easy, leading a successful one might be even harder. No reason to sugar coat it or make it seem like a piece of cake. Building and maintaining a strong team is hard work.
Having said that, does it mean that this is only a man’s job? Absolutely not. It is a true challenge for every leader in business, and more great women should take charge of their teams and face the exciting road ahead.
Whether in a well-established enterprise or in a small start-up, making your team stronger is probably the most important thing you can do to increase your chances of success. Unless you are one of 29,494 lucky ones that have been able to create a million-dollar one-person business, you need a team around you.
So, how to turn a great team into an even stronger one? How to leverage the assets that are already available and ensure that a strong team is built?
Practice supportive leadership
There are so many leadership styles and methods emerging that it often makes it difficult to take a stand on one style. What about returning to the basics and giving supportive leadership a chance? Professor Schyns has explained supportive leadership as a leadership style that is associated with a concern for the needs and well-being of followers, and the facilitation of a desirable climate for interaction between leaders and followers. Therefore, the emphasis is on the needs of the employees and increasing their satisfaction.
What is more, a research conducted by Schyns indicates that there is a positive relation between employee job satisfaction and supportive leadership climate. Employees are willing to do extra work for the leader if they feel trusted, appreciated and evaluated.
Engage your people
According to statistics, one of the biggest problems managers around the world face is declining employee engagement. A staggering 70% of workers are not reaching their full potential. Due to various distractions in the office, on the Internet, and in personal-life, it is increasingly difficult to engage the team. This is an alarming fact, and the best thing for every leader to do is to engage your people.
Engagement starts from supportive leadership and ends with little modifications around the office. The most important thing to do is to find out what your team truly needs. Whether it is a flexible work schedule, staying connected through remote locations, or reorganizing the office layout, there are always compromises that can be achieved which will strengthen engagement in return.
Each person on the team has goals, and one of the best things you can do as a leader is to align their goals with company objectives. An employee who wanders without a specific goal needs immediate attention. Pay special attention to people that seemingly move in a different directions. The others need to understand the overall vision and see how each contribution will be a big step towards the company’s future. No one wants to deal with unimportant or irrelevant tasks that have no meaning whatsoever. So, give meaning to each task, even the seemingly unimportant ones.
Behavior that has a purpose is beneficial to everyone. Employees feel like their actions truly have an impact, and leaders enjoy the fruitful outcome. Ensure that each member of the team is on the same page when it comes to objectives, because without proper alignment chances of success are diminished.
Stay in the loop
Whether the team is independent or not, the leader needs to stay on top of things. One way you can achieve this is through the use of a weekly reporting tool. This can give the team leader proper insights to everyone’s achievements, tasks, problems and happiness. The advantage is that you can get an automated report that sums up all crucial information and delivers it in one document. So, no need to dive into your mailbox and desperately pull out important information. By using online tools with the whole team, everybody is aware of the current situation and are able to collaborate when necessary.
An organization is all about groups of people moving together towards a vision. If you are not directing a “one man’s show,” then building a strong team should be your number one priority. Stronger teams are not built in days, but through constant work and attention. At times you might find the road to stronger teams paved with obstacles, but rarely are we faced with problems that do not have solutions. So, be a supportive leader and do everything you can to engage your team. Keep an eye on the goals and make sure these goals are also obvious to the team. Always know what the team is currently working on and use the right tools to enhance their performance.
About the Author: Külli Koort is currently working at Weekdone, a weekly reporting startup, where she is focused on introducing the easiest and most efficient weekly reporting tool to the world. She likes to write about time management, productivity and employee engagement.
With great power comes great responsibility, said Spider Man.
A good leader embodies a number of highly-desired traits. He or she is focused, flexible, empathetic, ethical, and is engaged in a strong pursuit of success. There are different types of leaders and many leadership styles. Each might approach a situation or a problem in a different way but the outcome should always be the same: success or solution to a problem. Being able to get things done is the sign of a good leader.
Leadership has been much discussed. Thousands of books, articles, and blogs have been dedicated to studying different and efficient leadership styles. So how is it that despite such a wealth of information available on being a good leader, every organization has its own set of bad leaders? How come every employee has at least once endured that dreaded thing called “bad boss”?
No one starts off with the goal of becoming a horrible boss, but one picks up undesirable qualities along the way and gets stuck in self-defeating patterns of words and actions that earns one the label of ‘the boss from hell’.
So what are the things that lead to people getting this not-so-coveted title? Here are some of the qualities that we absolutely do not want in our leaders.
Credit Snatcher Alert!
This is for all those bosses who can never appreciate the fine work of their juniors and waste no time in making it their own. So your juniors may be less experienced and less skilled than you but when they do a good job they do deserve appreciation.
While taking credit for someone else’s work could be unintentional at times, especially when you feel that you came up with an idea which your subordinates simply executed, the least you can do is give them the credit for their part of work. That is what a good mentor does.
Is an Opportunistic Communicator
Being a good communicator is one of the key qualities needed to become a good leader. But good communication is not limited to conveying what you want from your employees and giving them their targets unambiguously.
It is about keeping them motivated and positive at all times. You cannot be an aggressive and empowering communicator only when you need your subordinates to work for you. To be a good leader you should be an informative, enthusiastic and encouraging communicator at all times.
Many leaders do not let beneficial and important information trickle down to their juniors as they fear that access to such information may help their juniors outshine them. This is bad practice. Such leaders never earn the trust or willing support of their subordinates. You cannot lead a team with a need-to-know-only attitude towards your juniors.
Lacks Vision and Focus
Leading through action and direction is the mantra for most successful leaders. Nobody can trust or rely on a leader who does not have a vision for himself or for the growth of his team. A leader needs to be clear about his goals and be meticulous in his approach towards attaining these goals.
Such a leader is focused and leads through example. On the other hand, a leader who lacks vision and focus will not set long-term goals. He cannot induce passion or commitment towards work in his or her subordinates. The best leaders are those who inspire others to go ahead and achieve their dreams. Such leaders infuse positivity, discipline and focus in their subordinates.
A bad leader lacks vision and fails to plan properly. They are not connected to their employees and remain clueless about the goings-on at work. They also fail to remain accountable and often blame their juniors when something goes wrong. Most people don’t stick around for long under such leaders.
Lacks Empathy and Flexibility
Kindness and humility go a long way. A leader that always says ‘NO’ to all that a junior asks, refuses to accept any innovation put forth by young blood, and is dominating and dictatorial in his approach gets a thumbs-down form us.
One becomes a leader only when he or she has followers. A boss that does not empathize with his workers is a bad boss and won’t win any hearts.
When your subordinates feel that you care for them, they want to give you their best. On the other hand, if they only receive indifference and coldness from the boss, their productivity will decline and understandably so.
These are bosses with excessive ego, pride and arrogance. They usually possess all of the above mentioned qualities. In addition to that, they are bad listeners. They believe that they know everything and will discourage you to speak up or express your views. And if you do manage to do so and rub them the wrong way, be ready for some serious payback. Yes, they are vindictive too.
Engages in Favoritism
Now this is the boss who irks us the most. They will shower favors on those they like. They love people sucking up to them and if you don’t, you are in deep trouble. By now you might have guessed that they play an active role in office politics and deliberately underplay your talent and hard work. They also pit employees against each other and create a bad working atmosphere.
If you are a leader and have been deliberately or unintentionally exhibiting any of the above behavior, check yourself now. A good leader brings out the best in all his followers; he is fair and unbiased and gives wings to his followers’ dreams. If you are working under a leader who does not inspire you to give your best, you need to recognize the signs and find a way out to receive guidance from a better boss.
About the Author: Lura Peterson is a freelance writer for Topmobility.com and loves to write on mobility. Besides writing, she also enjoys shopping, traveling with her family to far-off places and time spent with her husband.
The old Mars versus Venus debate is back and this time it’s in the business arena. Traditionally, men have always had an edge over women in running businesses- more men own businesses and high revenue businesses are mostly controlled by men. So why ask this question? With many women rising to break the glass ceiling and proving that gender has nothing to do with success, it is indeed a valid question. Women are showing that they can handle business as well as men, if not better.
The rise of women in business: Why women are better at calling the shots
The last few years have seen a steady rise of women-owned businesses in the country. From startups to corporate giants, a number of women CEOs run companies. Business is no longer male-dominated. According to a 2013 report by American Express OPEN, women own 8.6 million businesses in America. Moreover, women-owned businesses have grown by 59 percent between 1997 and 2013 and this trend is set to continue in the next few years. As more women step into the business game, it brings us back to the question: Are women better at doing business? Here are five areas where women fare better than men, research has confirmed. All of them are important in the task of running a successful business. The findings may just about convince you!
Women were rated as better leaders than their male counterparts in a 2011 study carried out by Zenger Folkman Inc., the Harvard Business Review reports. Women score higher than men in most of the competencies critical in leadership, scoring high in qualities like taking initiative and pushing hard for results.
2. Decision making
The fairer sex lives up to their name. Research shows that women bosses are fairer than their male counterparts when it comes to making critical decisions in the company. A study by the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics found that women leaders involved others in the decision making process and companies that had female board members were more successful, reports The Daily Telegraph.
3. Financial emergencies
A 2013 HSBC study has found that men are more likely than women to touch their retirement savings when faced with a financial crisis. More women also considered economizing as a possible means of dealing with financial crisis, the study adds. Going by this study, women seem to be better financial planners, a quality that is vital in business.
4. Credit management
A study by the American Association of University Women shows that women may just be better at handling debt than men, says a report by CBS News. While men and women are equal in terms of average credit scores, men tend to have bigger mortgages and higher incidents of late payments.
5. Social responsibility
Women leaders are more likely to contribute towards activities that have a societal impact. The 2013 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth reveals that female entrepreneurs love to give back to their community, Forbes reports. Philanthropy plays a big part in the financial portfolio of women leaders, more than men.
An article by American Express further makes the case for women, citing five reasons on what makes women more effective bosses than men- they are better at communication, better at fostering relationships, have got stronger business ethics, they are more patient and better at triggering passion in employees.
Women have always excelled in the corporate sector, but their numbers in top positions have been dismal. But these studies show why women may be better business handlers and how they make more successful leaders as compared to men. Some of the findings may have come as a surprise- traditionally men have been more driven and forward in taking the initiative but women outscore them in these two areas!
It’s not just in the big businesses that women are thriving. Driving for growth is also one of the characteristics of women who own small businesses, the Hartford small business report shows. The 2013 study showed that when it came to small businesses, women displayed more desire for growth than men owning similar sized businesses.There’s also increased optimism in women owners who operate small businesses, the study adds.
As the future for women-owned businesses seems bright, one thing is clear: In a tough business environment, women are no less and the numbers are out there for all to see. Can women handle business better than men? I think you know the answer!
About the Author: Elvis Donnelly is a father of two who works from home. He is a voracious reader and like to keep abreast of current affairs on personal finance, technology and innovation. In his spare time, he loves taking on home improvement projects and considers himself a closet chef.
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