Your leadership attributes will give you the foundation needed to develop the leadership skills you need to be the great leader your business needs you to be.
For example, the attribute self-‐confidence will help you stand up and speak to an audience. But only with practice and guidance will you have the communication skills to command their full attention and inspire them.
The image shows the core attributes and skills that are vital for growing a successful business. It shows key attributes at the centre with essential skills surrounding them and stemming from them.
Around the outside, I show skills and attributes, which can come about as a result of these core qualities.
With experience and training, newer skills are forged and refined. For example, with the right attitude, increased self-‐confidence and empathy a young manager improves her communication skills, which makes her a better negotiator.
Combine your skills and attributes and with effort and practice, you’ll be a better speaker and presenter, your productivity will increase and so on.
Let’s look at some of the essential leadership skills that great leaders possess.
Building and maintaining strong relationships with all stakeholders, including your people, clients (residents), relatives and customers (local council, CCG etc), will be of the utmost importance throughout the lifetime of your care home business.
For any business, building and maintaining strong relationships helps to build an advantage over competitors. If you sell on price rather than because you have a differentiating offering, then your relationships are pretty much the only things keeping your customers from buying from cheaper competitors. (Selling on price only is not healthy for most businesses, so I don’t recommend it.)
It’s also easier to sell to a customer who has already enjoyed a good experience with you, who knows you, trusts you, likes you and likes the quality of your work. We’re creatures of habit and are reluctant to look for an alternative source if the current one meets our needs at a price we’re willing to pay.
Depending on the type of business, relationships with other external companies are paramount. For example, the car you drive is full of solutions provided by companies whose badge is not shown on it. Your mobile phone is full of components and software that companies like Apple and Samsung sourced from other companies. (Many Apple and Samsung products use the same (British) processor manufacture in their phones and tablets.)
Internally, relationships are, depending on the business, even more important. You want to have good working relationships with everyone in your company. You managers must build good relationships with you and even more so with those they manage.
To have a vision of how your business or organisation will look several years hence and of what you need to do to get there, takes creative thinking. To create a product or service, where none was before, or different enough that it stands out and fills a need, takes creative thinking. To create the kind of messages that will attract those you want and then convert them into paying customers, takes creative thinking. To inspire others to follow and work with you takes (you’ve guessed it) creative thinking.
We may not be Van Gogh or Beethoven but given the right environment, enough time and self-confidence, we can be creative in our business and must in fact, be creative in our business, if we want to stand out from the crowd.
But creativity doesn’t happen overnight, or on demand. Like anything you’re not used to doing, it’s hard. Remember when you first tried to ride a bike or swim. You had guidance and you practiced and with that you got better and better.
For a small to medium sized company, creativity is vital. You have far less resources and time to establish a presence and relationships in your sector that any competitor would struggle to take away. You need to stand out.
Nurture creativity in your teams. Maybe present a problem for your team to resolve.
One care provider I work with was spending more time with relatives complaining about aspects of the service. When delving deeper it turned out that most of the complaints were, to be blunt, born out of ignorance.
A relative was upset because their father hadn’t been shaved and looked unkempt. It turned out that the father’s behaviour would heighten if you tried to get him to do something or tried to do something to him (like shave him). So, the best course of action was to do nothing. When this was explained, the daughter was happy again.
The problems were mostly down to a lack of understanding and so, we created a way to educate relatives in areas like Dementia and why the staff did what they did (or didn’t) to pre-empt these kinds of issues. The number of complaints dropped off a cliff.
No one is going to get your ideas, your purpose, your vision or your strategy except you if you can’t communicate it to others. Don’t tell them and hope they’ll be as excited as you, communicate it in a way that ensures they are.
The stronger your empathy the better your communication skills. Strong, clear, inspiring communication is vital for any business so that:
- Your people embrace your dream and work hard to help you achieve it,
- Your target customers understand why they should buy from you,
- Your strategic partners commit their time and effort in working with you and supporting you,
- Your investors and banks give you the financial support you need for growth or expansion.
There are more and more ways to get your message across and mediums in which to do it (websites, letters, presentations, conversations). Whatever you do, however you do it, always put yourselves in the shoes of your audience (empathy) and ask what it is you would need to see, hear or read in order to make the decision you want them to make.
Prepare each form of communication with a blank sheet of paper and think about your audience. Who are they (relatives, social workers, staff)? What are you trying to achieve? What do you want them to do at the end? What do they need to know in order to do that?
Put yourself in their shoes. What would keep you riveted to the speaker and to what he is saying? What would you need to know and to feel in order for you to do whatever it is you want them to do or however you want them to feel?
Your ability to communicate, to listen and to connect is everything because it doesn’t matter how good your message is or your idea is, if your audience doesn’t get it and no one is listening, then you’ve wasted your time.
Being able to make decisions is crucial. If you procrastinate in your business, situations will deteriorate and people will lose confidence in you.
You want your managers to be able to make decisions without checking with you every time. If it turns out they made a wrong decision but can demonstrate why they made the decision they did, then it becomes a crucial learning exercise. Don’t let them be afraid to make wrong decisions – we’ve all done it – provided they learn from it.
Strong leaders are those who can admit they made a mistake. Strong leaders are not those who cannot make a decision for fear of making the wrong one.
A wrong decision or procrastination may indicate a need for training. If a middle manager has a person not performing as they should or is being disruptive but isn’t addressing the problem could it be a training issue. That once given gives them the confidence and know-how to never struggle with that issue again?
Don’t jump in to resolve issues that a manager has struggled with. You need that manager to learn so that you don’t have to dive in again in the future. (Avoid sticking plasters.) So, instead of giving the answer ask questions that guide them to finding the right answer themselves.
If you’re putting off making an important decision, ask yourself why. Do you have enough information? Do you need to take time out to talk to others and weigh-up the pros and cons? Is your gut instinct trying to tell you something? Provided you know, then waiting is fine. But if nothing seems untoward then just go ahead and make it.
In life we all have big decisions to make. Almost always, the biggest regrets in our life are not from the decisions we make but from the ones we don’t.
Drive and determination give you the emotional energy to keep going. It’s discipline that translates that into focused productivity.
It’s a noisy world we live in with people constantly demanding our attention. If we gave in to them we would have no time for our business.
What do the majority of people who work at a computer do first when they sit down at their desk? They check their emails. As soon as you do that you become reactive to the demands of others and you hand over your time to them.
Before you know it, at least half the morning has gone and you’ve actually achieved nothing of what you should be doing. Email is a marvellous tool, but it is also one of the biggest enemies of productivity.
What’s worse is that most people perform their best work in the morning and by the time they get to doing what they should be doing the afternoon is upon them, their sugar levels have dropped and with it, their energy and creativity.
Attributes like your self-confidence, self-reliance, optimism, drive and determination are so important but it’s your discipline that makes sure you achieve your aims and move your business forward. Without it you will be unproductive[link to why is so hard to get things done] and another day will pass where you’ve made no money and not got your business closer to where you need it.
If I have some intense work to do, I set the stopwatch on my phone to 50 minutes and stay focused on the task until the time is up. I then take a break, walk away, make a call, make a drink, something for around 5 minutes, then I reset the stopwatch and go again. It’s amazing how quickly the time goes and how much you get done.
Even though your strategy will guide you, your systems and processes will spin many of your plates for you, it’s your discipline that will keep you focused and in control. A well-‐planned diary will help you stay disciplined and productive. With a good strategy plan in place, you will know the key milestones that you need to achieve and what you need to do to reach them.
Think about your productivity and your discipline. Do you achieve all you set out? Are you actually achieving or are you just being busy and, like a hamster in a wheel, getting no-‐where? Be prepared and disciplined enough to block out chunks of time in order to get the things you need to do done.
It can be very lonely at the top. It doesn’t matter how many senior people you have in your business, you have the final say, you have the responsibility to make the business successful – the buck stops with you.
The skills that you develop and refine and the attributes that are inherent in you will help you apply your attention and direct the attention of others. That’s essentially what leadership is all about. It’s about being able to focus your attention on what’s important, what needs to be done, which direction you need to be headed and being able to bring together everyone else and direct their attention in the same way.