When people think about being a leader, they often think about the thrills of being in charge. They think about what it would be like not to be told what to do for a change, and how they would make better decisions than their boss. What they don’t think about are the responsibilities behind the title. Most people don’t consider just how much pressure can be derived from them.
Not all leaders live up to their job descriptions and, for that matter, salary. That doesn’t excuse my performance on any level or make room for excuses. I’ll tell you what I wish someone had told me before I became a leader of my own business in hopes you’ll get the head start that can propel you to success.
1. Leaders Set The Tone
You can hire the best people in the world, but the culture of a company comes from the top-down. If I’m not responding to emails, showing up for meetings late, or disregarding my employee’s time, few people are going to call me out on it until it gets egregious.
Yet, the people around me will be noting it all. They will be subconsciously taking cues from what I do. I can’t expect people to give me their best efforts if I’m not doing the same.
So, this means striking a balance between being organized and being flexible. Too rigid, and I won’t be able to take advantage of arising opportunities or adapt to time-sensitive situations (looking at you, pandemic). Too loose and I’ll sacrifice valuable time to engage in more winsome activities.
To that end, I’d like to take a moment to discourage you from multi-tasking. Putting your undivided focus on a task is the only way to really get it off the ground. This is true whether you’re raising a barn, or trying to grow your business.
You might love the thrill of the chase and all those brainstorming sessions, and that’s perfectly fine. However, if you can’t set aside the wild conjecture for a few hours to work out the details, you won’t be as effective in your role.
2. You’re Going To Need To Proactively Attack
Don’t get me wrong, I knew going into my career that you need to view a problem from multiple sides to truly understand it. This would turn out to be such a key factor for my success that I can’t stress it enough to you.
If I take on a client, it’s because they’re going through issues. As a Consultant, I’m not seeing them at their best, but when they’ve hit some serious snags with their bottom lines. It’s a precarious place to be, one that can dredge up a lot of emotions on both sides of the equation.
If I’m going to figure out what’s going on, I have to look at everything, from the sales team to the operations and marketing slogans. This can be tricky for some people to understand. How am I, an outsider, going to understand the organization as a whole? My career is based on having a different perspective so I can see the bigger picture.
3. You Have To Be Ready
You can go your whole career without seeing a disaster. 50 or 60 years could pass you by and you might never live through an adverse event.
Ultimately, though, you can’t count on this. When a life-changing disaster strikes, you need to think on your feet. You also need to have some kind of contingency plan in place. In my industry, I’m already starting to see insurance carriers look at how they can integrate epidemic insurance policies into their product base.
4. Customer Service Is Not Dead
In the age of automation, it’s easy to think that the public values convenience over customer service. I would come to find that there’s never been a better time to put trust and care for the customer above all else.
While it might be easy to cold-call someone and start boasting about new rates and services in the insurance industry, it’s far smarter to reach out to people to talk about how a policy can be a life raft during a time of crisis. Of course, nothing is better than calling customers just to check in on how they’re doing during times of uncertainty.
While this might sound like advice that’s specific to the insurance industry, it can be applied to any business that relies on other people to function.
5. Take Time For You
Meditation and self-reflection aren’t for some people — it’s for everyone. Sometimes, it’s as simple as going for a walk. Turn off all those alerts and let yourself “just be” for a while. Start with 5 or 10 minutes and then work your way up. If you happen to get an idea during this time, then so much the better!
Most of these lessons are mastered on the job, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for them before you actually jump into the game. These tips might not be mind-blowing to you, but they’re realities that all effective leaders have learned at some point or another. I hope they help you sketch out your game plan and prep for whatever’s next!