Leadership is both a research area and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual or organization to “lead” or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations.
1. Perfection shouldn’t be the priority
For the self-driven leader, it’s not uncommon for them to demand perfection from themselves. The target is a benchmark that is impossibly lofty, but as a high achiever, you sometimes manage to reach it. The problem is when you try to hold your team to the same stringent standards as you do for yourself. People are never perfect. To err is human.
When perfectionists expect their teams to approach goals with the same degree of precision, the employees are doomed to never meet expectations. Not only that, this type of leader will tend to get annoyed by even the most inconsequential imperfections, causing enormous frustration.
Does this mean that lowering expectations is the answer? Not necessarily. It’s a combination of choosing what to focus on and looking past stylistic differences. The perfectionist by definition wants everything to be just right. This can result in focusing too much attention towards what isn’t going right — even if it is not a key result area of your business. While you should not ignore an important constraint, ask yourself if it’s really where your attention should be concentrated. If not, focusing on the bigger picture can help you steer your team in the right direction.
Shifting emphasis away from the minor imperfections also can give your team more leeway to operate within their own style preferences versus strictly adopting yours. This can be tremendously valuable in not only getting the most out of each individual team member, but also in the discovery of better approaches you otherwise might not have pursued.
2. Your drivers may differ from your team’s
One aspect self-driven leaders often share is that they know exactly where they want to go and are in a hurry to get there. Whether it’s a big promotion, an income target or a juicy assignment — your motivators are clear and compelling. While this surely works for you, it’s very likely your team is going to be comprised of individuals with lots of other drivers. Great leaders don’t operate under a one style fits all model. They get to know the team first and work with each individual to put together a mutually beneficial plan.
3. Your ability to push yourself
One of the reasons some people rise up the ranks faster than others is because they are naturally able to grasp concepts quickly and apply them without much supervision. These individuals are able to produce prodigious results, whether their leader is exceptional or not. They are successful and have been promoted in many ways because they can operate largely in a self-sufficient manner. Through years of experience, these individuals have learned how to motivate themselves.
Upon being asked to lead others, these individuals can become frustrated that their teams do not have the same skill sets. This should not be mistaken for either a lack of effort or disinterest. It’s more likely they need someone to help hold them accountable. They require the occasional nudge, pat on the back or kick in the rear. Gradually, they can reach a level of greater self-sufficiency, but it needs to be coached, learned and practiced. The best leaders have the ability to relate to each member of their team, regardless of their diversity. Remembering that every member is unique — and allowing for such differences — can help determine whether you become a great versus good organization.
4 Strategies To Effectively Manage Small Teams
1. Focus on organization
When you’re juggling many tasks among a team of only a few people, it is important that ideas and tasks are documented. Otherwise, it is easy to overlook important pieces of your business.
One golden rule is to resist the urge to cancel meetings. Once you start delaying your one-on-one staff meetings, your team can get quickly off track.
To help keep your team organized, utilize tools such as the chat service Kato.im, as well as Google Docs, which allows you to track updates without losing important items to the email abyss.
2. Hire smart people
Your staff needs to be able to do multiple tasks and not require direction all the time, so it is important that staff members are flexible and independent. Rather than hiring through regular channels, look for graduates of programs such as the Startup Institute or university programs such as Tufts, which offers training in entrepreneurial studies. Candidates with such training may be better prepared for the realities of a startup environment and will not be expecting to just do their job and walk away at 5 o’clock.
Also, when interviewing candidates, look for people who can demonstrate their buy-in to the business. I ask job candidates to complete a small project as a test before they are hired. In doing so, I am looking less at the finished product they produce than how they react to being asked as a measure of their willingness to jump in and get started.
3. Have priorities
The fact of the matter is that your small team will not be able to perform every single task a big team can accomplish. Don’t get caught up in the need to act like a large business. Figure out the most important tasks that will make the most impact for the result you need to achieve. If you have clear goals, you can accomplish them by doing less than you would normally think possible.
While small teams face their own challenges, there are many perks as well. Intimate teams, especially those at early-stage startups, develop a strong sense of camaraderie as they work toward their common goal of building a new business. With some strategic management tactics, small teams can conquer the world.
4. Endeavor to encourage rest
When you are working at an early-stage startup, the reality is there is always more work to do. It will never be done and with the nonstop pace, it is difficult to step away. The problem of unused vacation is not specific to just startups; unused vacation in the U.S. is at a 40-year high with workers leaving nearly a quarter of their vacation time on the table. Productivity will be much higher during the week if everyone is rested and focused. You will need, however, to lead by example. Go home at night, take your vacations and insist your team does so too.
Wrapping it up
Leaders also need to be very organized on a personal level, and able to manage themselves and their time, so that they can spend time doing what they need to do, and not on other tasks. As well as organizing their time and their teams, leaders need to spend a bit of time on themselves, and particularly on their self-motivation. A leader who lacks self-motivation will struggle to motivate others, as people are quick to detect a lack of sincerity.