Struggles every new business leads are familiar with
When I began my entrepreneurial journey, it was quite a scary thing. Running a business with a team of three people posed a heavy workload issue.
I would like to share some of the thought processes that I have come to embrace to survive my leadership journey.
One of the key issues every leader must overcome is the ability to attract and retain effective talents.
We also have to accept that skilled talents will rarely cast their eyes on new companies as we do not have the right amount of visibility and pull factor.
One way you can overcome this issue is by communicating on the intangibles being offered with the job.
We follow a strict five-day work week that starts and ends consistently. We also offer medical benefits for our employees and their families.
This has proven to be a great tool to attract and retain talent especially once they utilise their medical benefit.
We also generally offer a higher than par entry salary for our employees.
By doing this, we save in the long run in terms of attrition costs, retraining cost and loss of productivity. With our combined manpower strategy we have had only one worker resigning after three years in operations.
Being the bigger person
When dealing with people, one needs to be humane. I learnt this principle from one of my mentors: be the bigger person.
As a company – and head of business – we have to be able to accommodate and absorb losses due to human error, events beyond our control, health issues and sales volatility.
This is something I learnt from one of my new hires. He was an experienced, talented individual and we needed him in our team.
During the interview, he negotiated his basic salary based on the idea that we would be lowering our offer.
Instead of negotiating, I decided to match my offer with his “expectation” and in return, I asked for his full commitment and contribution. He has been an amazing contributor so far.
These are instances where you can be the bigger person and elevate those around you to higher levels. Being petty and trying to save the company a few hundred ringgit is not the thought process of a true leader and entrepreneur.
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Employees are people too, don’t treat them like machines
Founders usually treat their start-ups like their own “babies”. Every company is precious. I remember spending hour after hour, day after day trying to expand and grow the company.
One thing to always remember is that, your employees do not view the company in the same light. And that is a good thing.
To create a sustainable environment for both yourself and your employees, you must accept the fact that 100% work output is unrealistic.
Workload output at 60% to 70% is already good. By trying to squeeze and regulate your employees, you will only stress yourself out, cause a higher attrition rate and inadvertently create more work for yourself when your employees eventually leave.
I found that by allowing them to self-regulate by committing to deadlines and managing their own workflows, you can get more done. No one likes to be micro-managed.
Prepare for mistakes, plan for failure
A good leader will shine when they deal with issues and mistakes at the workplace. People make mistakes. This is one of the fundamental requirements of learning and innovating.
It is counterproductive to degrade, put down or abuse a person because of a mistake. You generally create unwanted anxiety, fear and resentment for everyone at work. A good leader does not resort to shaming or chiding others in order to make a point.
Our responsibility as a leader is to have a backup plan and a tolerance level established upfront with regard to work.
When working with people, we must understand that their daily output can be affected by a million different things; their children falling sick, loss in the family, money issues, and many others.
It never hurts to be empathetic and understand the underlying reasons for errors and mistakes before responding. Sometimes, someone just has a bad day.
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Never take things personally
When dealing with an irate or angry subordinate in the early years, I allowed myself to think and feel that I am being personally attacked and generally respond in an equally emotional way.
This usually escalates the situation and differences in hierarchy leaves the subordinate feeling wronged, helpless and unable to resolve the issue that he or she may be facing. This negativity will then express itself within the workplace environment.
After making many mistakes of this kind I realised the damage that I am doing to the culture of my organisation.
I started separating myself from the issue at hand.
Practising outcome-based decision-making also helped tremendously. When we think of the issue at hand holistically and consider the possible outcomes before responding, we should be able to manage the situation appropriately with the best possible intervention or solution.
Bear in mind that different situations require different kinds of responses. If you are able to take a step back, evaluate and decide objectively, you will generally have better outcomes from each situation.
Contrary to popular opinion, leadership is not a fun happy wonderful position to be in. It takes self-awareness, humility, empathy, responsibility, foresight and openness.
There is a valid reason to why it is called the “burden” of leadership. I am still very new to this thought process and am still figuring out my own journey. I hope this piece helps you move along yours.