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When you step into the role of a leader for the first time after transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce, it can seem a little bit overwhelming. Your gut says that you need to be more military-like, but your surroundings are reminding you to need to be more civilian-like. The truth is we just need to be more human.
The most important principle of being a great leader is that the people you lead have two fundamental needs: to be heard, and to be understood.
People Need To Be Heard
One of the first mistakes a lot of leaders make is they think all the ideas come from them and that they alone need to take care of the business. The reality is that successful leadership should work in the opposite direction- leaders clear the way and focus on the team, and the team will care for the business. Team members have frustrations, desires, and ideas; they need good leadership and mentorship to help deliver them.
Some simple ways to do this are by taking your team members out for lunch individually to open up time to chat outside of work, and/or having regular 1:1 meetings weekly to understand what is standing in the way of their personal and professional goals. The human connection a leader can provide to a member of the team will deliver ten times the results any other investment of your time can deliver.
It is easy to forget when you have 100 unread emails facing in your inbox, but a business is made up of people and these people have hopes, dreams, struggles, and hardships. As leaders, it is our job to connect and help clear the way.
Read next: 5 Business Practices to Keep Employees Happy
People Need To be Understood
The second is to not just listen to what your team is saying, but truly understand the viewpoint they see. We have all witnessed a time, I am sure, where someone's concerns are quickly invalidated and brushed aside. Those are the best moments to build connection, increase engagement, and tend to the health of the organization. When you extend empathy to another team member you offer the rare moment to show concern, demonstrate they matter, and that they are significant.
A phrase I like to keep in mind is "We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Always listen two times more than you speak."
Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin is often quoted as saying, "Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If they take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients"
And another favorite is from JW Marriott - "If you take care of your people, they will take care of your customers, and your business will take care of itself."
Read next: 7 Smart Habits for Small Business Owners
As leaders we have a lot to think about, worry about, and live up to. Whenever in doubt about what to do next, always engage with a team member- it will help you move forward more confidently, and probably brighten a team member's day. In the business world of yesterday, profit was the focal point of all our efforts. In the business world of tomorrow, profit is how we will measure the success of our team and our leadership. When we connect, hear, and understand our people, profit will be a natural by-product of their success.
As a veteran entrepreneur, there's a lot you have to keep track of. Whether you're a new small business owner or looking to take your business to the next level, our Ultimate Guide For Veteran-Owned Small Businesses is a great resource for you. In it we cover how to both start and grow a business, as well as the basics of small business financing to help you determine the type of business loan or small business funding you need. Download it today!
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