Seven leadership steps you can take today!

Leadership is only part of the equation in running a business. To run a company successfully, you can't just be a leader; you also must be a good manager.

I know a business owner who barks orders, doesn't train his employees and has a bad temper. After 13 years in business, he can't figure out why he isn't making a profit! As the company's owner, shouldn't he know what's going on? Shouldn't he be able to recognize the problem and fix it? Not necessarily. Just because he's the owner doesn't mean he's a good leader, or even a good manager.

In fact, he has such a huge ego, he isn't aware that his leadership style is getting in the way of his company's success. He doesn't realize that he's mainly responsible for his company's failures. As long as he's in charge, his company will never be successful. He needs to take a step back, look in the mirror and change his leadership style.

Leadership is only part of the equation in running a business. To run a company successfully, you can't just be a leader; you also must be a good manager. One complements the other, and both are essential.

The leader in you should create a vision, set goals and inspire employees. The manager in you should implement systems and processes and watch the numbers so you can fulfill that vision. The manager in you follows up to take corrective action for failed performance and rewards accomplishments. If you lead but don't manage, you're heading for disaster. Look at it this way - if you step away from your business, even for a short period, will another person be able to run your business?

On the other hand, if you manage but don't lead, will your employees know where you're headed? Will they be inspired? If you both manage and lead, then your company will flourish. If you're already a good manager and want to become a better leader, you can start doing a few things immediately that will help you build leadership skills. When you implement these suggestions, make sure that you're sincere or your employees will see right through you.

1. Set a good example. When I ran my first HVAC business in 1997, I learned to sell replacement equipment so I could set a good example. I even went to classes to get my contractor's license and worked with my technicians to install equipment. This helped me earn the respect of my sales staff and technicians.

Hop into a truck

2. Get to know your employees and show that you care about them. Your employees will know if you care about them, and they'll perform better if you do. Meet with them to discuss their professional goals and career path. Then help them get there with training, encouragement and rewards. Hop into a service technician's truck and ride on a service call with him or her every 200 calls. This will help you build a relationship and communicate you want to help. (And that you care!)

3. Ask your employees for ideas. Then implement the good ones. Your employees are on the front lines and can be valuable sources of cost-saving and profitable suggestions. Respecting their input shows that you value their professionalism, enhances their morale and contributes to your bottom line.

4. Conduct a training session on improving revenue. Share your weekly revenue budget by department with all employees and ask them how they can help reach it. You will inspire your employees to work toward the same goals, and again, you'll demonstrate that you respect their role in building the business.

5. Talk to one employee about goals and let him or her know what you expect. (Then, talk to everyone!) A business always works better if everyone understands what they're supposed to do. As a leader, it's your job to let employees know what their key responsibilities are and what you expect of them. Help them understand why their responsibilities are so important to the organization, and make sure they get the tools and training they need to succeed.

6. Make a decision about something that you've been putting off. You wouldn't believe how difficult it is for some leaders to make a decision! If you keep waffling, then nothing gets done and your employees will inevitably lose confidence in you, especially if you are avoiding an issue that's causing problems.

Attack your weaknesses

7. Know your strengths. You're good at many things, but admit it — there are probably a few areas where you don't excel. If that's the case, either assign those duties to someone whose talents and strengths fit the job better, or take steps to improve your own skills. For example, if you are not comfortable in a sales role, hire excellent people to sell for you. Or, if you are uncomfortable about public speaking, offer to make a presentation to a professional organization so you can practice this skill.

If you're really serious about improving your leadership and management qualities, first look in the mirror and assess where you are today. Then do the things necessary for you to get better. There's always room for improvement.

Rebecca Cassel is group president for consumer services at Clockwork Home Services Inc., which awards and supports franchises in the home services industry including Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning and Mister Sparky Electrical. Additional information is available at www.clockworkhomeservices.com.