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5 Basics for Business Leaders

Sometimes, it’s easy to get into the weeds of what it means to be successful in business. Metrics, outcomes, and other details become the focus in a quest to find an objective measure of success as a leader, employee, and professional. When this happens, the basics get lost in the noise, which can negatively affect your career and reputation. While the basics may seem obvious, it’s worth taking a dive into some of the more elemental keys to success.

1. Look for solutions, not problems

As a part of a team, we have vertical reports as well as colleagues and other people who are interested in forward momentum – however that may look in a particular situation. While it’s important to unpack a problem to understand its potential cause and consequence, this is only the first step. Knowing that there’s a problem, and even being detailed in its identification, does not jump-start the momentum; it simply gives context and flavor to the impasse. To truly contribute to the team, focus on the solution to the problem instead. From an environmental perspective, solutions engage your creativity, model behavior for the rest of the team, and tend towards a positive energy that feeds on itself.

2. Giving Grace

Own the fact that true perfection is not possible. People come up short in sometimes surprising ways. Instead of making someone else feel small, consider giving them grace. This does not mean overlooking a problem, rather, you can allow for human error and challenges that might have been the cause. As a practical matter, your team will be more likely to identify and own an issue when it arises if they know that they won’t suffer dire consequences for a mistake or lapse, which can go a long way towards mitigating whatever happens. We often are our own worst critics, so it is unlikely that your negative reaction will be stronger than the internal voice of the person who is coming up short in some way. Instead, harness their desire to do better (to succeed) by being a safe place to be vulnerable.

3. Having Empathy

Emotional intelligence begins with empathy – the capacity to understand and relate to the situation of another person. It comes across as caring about the experience and perspective of that person, and it has a serious impact on effective leadership. Studies have found that empathic leadership fosters innovation and engagement in your team. Employees who feel valued are more likely to stay with their job, and empathy is an important way to convey this to your team. Empathy is more likely to elicit positive behavior than any other form of interaction, and the additional connection has the capacity to make for more profound relationships with colleagues.

4. Positive Attitude

Aside from health benefits, having a positive attitude increases your effectiveness as a leader. It has been shown to increase sales, retention, and employee satisfaction. As leaders, we are called upon to influence the tone of our entire team, which makes having a positing attitude all the more important. Modeling positivity reverberates with the team, building on itself and increasing the positive outcomes. A positive attitude doesn’t mean that difficulties and challenges get overlooked; it is simply a better approach to finding the way forward.

5. Connection Before Charisma

While a public speaker may benefit from pure charisma, leaders must harness their abilities and shore up the team’s weaknesses. This can’t be done without knowing the team. Rather than start with inspiration and cheerleading, a leader benefits from understanding each team member (not to mention other people in their professional cosmos) and adapting to their needs. For example, an extrovert may be able to get the team fired up by their example, but this will not work in the long term for introverted team members who need a different approach. Taking the time to connect with people being led is far more likely to work than relying on the force of personality to inspire people to operate outside of their zone of success.

Jen Dalton is a personal brand specialist with entrepreneurship in her DNA. Her book, Listen: How To Embrace the Difficult Conversations Life Throws at You, is an insightful guide to navigating tough talks. She helps business owners and executives define how they show up as leaders, make the most of their strengths, and tend to their legacy, growth, and visibility. The author of two books, including The Intentional Entrepreneur, a frequent speaker, podcaster, and “Purpose Sherpa,” Jen is a critical resource for any person or company that wants to define their brand and differentiate themselves in authentic, credible, and relevant ways to the market.