What Google’s Mistakes Can Teach Us About Leadership.

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One of the things that Google is famous for is data-based decision making. When they want to find the most effective way to do something, they look at the numbers and work from there. However, even a company as married to analytics as Google is vulnerable to lapses and oversights. Recently, their data showed that their process for hiring and promoting the best managers for the job was all wrong.

When you look at where Google made their mistake and what they did to correct it, you could save your company some money and heartache and also create a more effective workplace.

Google’s Error and Assumption

Besides a dedication to data, Google’s other key characteristic is a high regard for technical expertise. Tech savviness was so prized that, historically, it was one of the top factors in whether someone would get promoted to management.

When Google set out to learn whether their hiring and promoting strategy was working, they discovered something interesting: the best managers were not necessarily the ones who were technical experts at all.

After gathering and analyzing data from 10,000 manager observations, they learned that the quality they valued most had almost no bearing on whether someone was a good manager. Instead, soft skills were what made all the difference.

What the Data Says Makes a Good Manager

Google used their large pool of data to identify eight qualities and habits that make great managers. While technical skill was on the list, it was the least important of all the qualities on it. In order of importance, the qualities that make great managers include:

  • Good coaching.
  • Empowering your team to work without micromanaging. A good manager hires good people, then gets out of their way.
  • Interest in employees’ well-being and success. People are more motivated and show greater job satisfaction when they know that the people they work under care about them.
  • A results-oriented and productive outlook.
  • Excellent communication skills, especially good listening.
  • An interest in employees’ career development. Good managers understand that we all do better when we all do better.
  • A clear vision and strategy.
  • Key technical skills. These aren’t important because your manager will be doing hands-on work, by the way. They are important because it allows the manager to advise the team that they’ve assembled for the job.

In addition to the revelations above, Google discovered a lot about the types of managers who make employees happy. The most important quality is a calm demeanor and an even keel. In a high-stress environment, someone who keeps things steady is key. They also discovered that the best leaders puzzled through problems with employees instead of just telling them what to do.

By looking at the real data about good managers, Google was able to improve their hiring practices, improve worker satisfaction, and increase productivity.

The biggest takeaway? Always challenge your assumptions. You may learn that what you thought was effective may be harming your company more than it helps. By taking an honest look at your analytics, you can seize startling revelations. Use them to make your company a better place and to rise above the competition.

 


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Healthy Employees Are Productive Employees: Why to Incentivize Health at Work.

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Productivity really is the secret to everything in terms of your business’ success. Happier employees tend to be more productive, which is why it is essential that you focus on things like corporate culture and team-building exercises whenever the opportunity arises.

Many people don’t realize, however, that this is only one small part of a much larger story. It isn’t enough for your employees to be happy – healthy employees are also significantly more productive than those who are not, which is why if you’re not already making health and wellness top priorities within your organization now would be an excellent time to start.

Healthy Employees and Productivity: Facts and Figures

According to a series of studies that were recently conducted on the subject, healthy employees may be a whole lot more valuable than you’ve even realized:

  • On average, employees who eat healthy foods (or who at least make an effort to do so) tend to be about 25% more productive than those who do not.
  • Employees that exercise for at least a half hour each week are an impressive 15% more likely to have higher job performance than those who do not.
  • Healthy employees also take fewer sick days, which is not surprising. The true revelation, however, is just how far this benefit goes: absenteeism is a massive 27% lower in employees who A) eat healthy, and B) exercise regularly.
  • The most important statistic of all is the fact that overweight and generally unhealthy employees cost employers in the United States an astounding $73.1 billion collectively per year, part of which has to do with the fact that they tend to file twice the number of workers’ compensation claims than those who do not.

At this point, the answer to the question “how important are healthy employees?” becomes resoundingly clear: very, very important. But saying that you value your employee’s health is one thing. Actually taking steps to show that this is true is something else entirely.

How to Value Health at Work

Luckily, valuing healthy employees is simply a matter of a series of small choices. You can begin by making sure that healthy snacks are available for employees in the office who may be “burning the midnight oil,” for example. If you’re one of the many workplaces around the country that has a vending machine on-site, consider restocking that vending machine with healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables instead of the traditional potato chips and sweets. People will absolutely start to eat them, especially if they don’t really have an alternative.

You’ll also want to consider emphasizing health in terms of things like employee benefits packages. Consider throwing in a free gym membership to a local fitness club that employees can take advantage of after they’ve worked with your organization for X number of weeks or months. It may not be something that everyone uses, but those who do will benefit greatly. You’ll also benefit, too, as this is a clear sign that you actually care about the health and fitness of your employees – something that will make it easier to attract top talent in the future.

Also remember that according to one report by Quantum Workplace, employees tend to be 14% more engaged when they are provided some time off to “recharge their batteries,” so to speak. So the next time you think it’s a good idea to make people work incredibly long hours week after week, you may want to think again.

 


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You Don’t Demand Employee Trust. You Earn It.

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Corporate culture is pretty much the key to everything in the world of business. According to a series of studies reported on by Forbes, nearly 90% of people who responded said that company culture was incredibly important for their firms. In fact, 92% said that they firmly believed that improving corporate culture would enhance the value of their business, while more than half of respondents said that corporate culture influences everything from productivity to creativity to profitability, value, growth and beyond.

At the same time, only 15% said that their company’s culture was where it needed to be.

It Begins at the Top

At first glance, these numbers may appear to be somewhat at odds with one another – but they really aren’t. Corporate culture begins at the top and, if anything, that 15% statistic can be attributed to one essential little word: trust. Leaders set the tone that affects the entire organization, and if employees don’t trust their leaders, they ultimately don’t trust the direction of the business that they’re devoting so much of their lives to.

Make no mistake: trust is not something that you can demand from your employees. It’s something that you have to earn – all day, every day. It’s also something that requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

Trust is a Privilege, Not a Right

Yes, you worked incredibly hard to become the leader that you are today. You put in long hours. You worked weekends. You devoted the majority of your life to your career and a constant push to achieve bigger and better things for yourself. Now you’re in charge of the proverbial ship, and everyone should just trust that you know what you’re doing by default, right?

There’s an old rule of storytelling that says that whenever possible, “show, don’t tell.” That essentially means that instead of having a character talk about some important development in the plot, SHOW the development instead by having them do something active. It’s why in “Star Wars,” instead of just having people stand around and talk about how bad the Death Star is, we see it blow up a planet to convey the same information in a much more active way.

This is the same mentality you need to adopt if you want to start earning the trust of your employees. If you make a mistake, don’t shift the blame – accept responsibility. Don’t ask any employee to do anything that you would be unwilling to do yourself. If you want people to come in on the weekend, you should also come in on the weekend. If you need your team to work long hours, guess what – you need to work them, too.

Show You Care

Every day, look for new opportunities to show your employees that you not only value what they do but that you’re all in this together. Remember that their productivity, hard work, and excellent performance needs to benefit more than just you and your career – it needs to positively impact them, too. They’re not going to follow you into battle because you tell them to. They have to want to do so.

The only way you can get to that point is if they trust you, and the only way you can get to THAT point is if you’re someone worth trusting. This simple distinction is often what separates a good leader from a great one.


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Using Continuity to Strengthen Your Branding Efforts

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Your brand is a lot more than just a name or a logo. It’s the feeling that someone gets when they come into contact, any contact, with your organization. In fact, the thing that really increases engagement and drives loyalty isn’t your products or services (though, to be fair, they do help quite a bit) – it’s this idea of the larger brand itself.

Because someone could potentially have that experience with your brand, the idea of brand continuity could not be more important. Regardless of how someone interacts with your brand, it should all feel like it’s naturally coming from the same place at all times. To truly master the idea of using continuity to strengthen your branding efforts, there are a few key things you’ll need to keep in mind.

One Brand, One Voice – No Exceptions

Continuity means all of your marketing efforts need to feel as consistent as possible regardless of what those efforts happen to be. In the world of print marketing, this can be as simple as making sure that all of the fonts in your advertisements match (or at least reflect) the fonts on your actual products themselves. This can also encompass larger ideas, like if you revamp or redesign your company logo in one place you immediately roll it out everywhere at the same time to avoid confusion.

In a single word, your goal is “synchronicity.” Every marketing-related decision you make must serve two masters. First, it must be purpose-driven with a strategic move made with a specific payoff in mind. Secondly, you need to make sure that it is NOT a move that is ultimately at odds with the way you talk to customers, the relationship that you have with them, or the idea that they have of your brand to begin with.

A Great Persona Makes All the Difference

Brand personas are incredibly helpful in this regard because they allow you to laser-focus your messaging on a few of your “ideal” customers in a way that makes it much easier to maintain one voice. If you segment your target audience into groups that are each represented by a singular fictional persona, it makes it much easier to make consistent decisions across all of your efforts. You can both make sure that continuity is preserved for all materials targeted at those people, but you can also easily get a “bigger picture” look about how each individual effort plays off of and compliments the rest.

The impact of negative brand continuity isn’t limited to a customer getting their wire’s crossed. Eventually, this problem will create a challenge that is much harder to overcome – a total loss of brand value in general. Not only will this see fewer sales for your actual products and services, but the same will be true of any retailers that may sell your products as well. This, in turn, will create fractured relationships, which goes a long way towards putting you farther away from your goals, not closer to them.


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Send Me All the Shoes You’ve Got!

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A growing shoe company sought to stretch their global influence, sending their first salesman to Asia to set up shop. After several days, he sent this dire message: “Bring me back immediately, you’ve made a terrible mistake. People in this village never wear shoes.” Months later, an enthusiastic associate asked for the opportunity to lead an international sales effort, offering to move anywhere. He packed his things and moved to the Asian outpost. After no immediate feedback, the boss began to wonder if they’d made another costly mistake. Soon, an overseas message rang through with joy: “Send me all the shoes you’ve got. I’ve never seen so many prospects!”

They say delayed hope can make the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Wouldn’t you like to experience more of the latter? New dreams can enliven enthusiasm and bring fresh joy for the days to come. But often the drudgery of life keeps our backs bent and our steps heavy. We are slaves to the checklist, struggling to lift our eyes above the tyranny of the urgent to see strategic breaks that might be right before us. Do you notice opportunities that others don’t? Do you have a vision for something that is bigger than the status quo? Would you like to?

Opportunity Isn’t Knocking; It’s Passing

Often opportunity isn’t knocking; it is passing. Many days opportunity doesn’t come looking for us; instead, we need to aggressively seek new ideas and perspectives, banging on the door until we finally crash through. Creativity may come in bursts, but often it is something that happens through our ironclad commitment to grow and evolve. How can you grow in resourcefulness or notice opportunities you are currently overlooking?

Team perspective can motivate enormous momentum. Surround yourself with good people, especially those with gifts and experience different than yours. What may seem daunting to you may be an exhilarating challenge for others! If you work alone, consider contracting a consultant to grow your skill set. Or network with a private coach for problem-solving, brainstorming, and peer advising. Often when you are pigeon-holed in one industry, it is harder to see broad-level solutions.

Extreme Differentiation Turns Obstacles into Opportunity

In stretching perspective, don’t just think outside the box, think contrary to the box itself. This strategy, called extreme differentiation, helps you uncover opportunities hiding in plain sight as you note the current gaps in your industry and brainstorm options that are dramatically different than your competitors.  Extreme differentiation pushes you to address problems that your competitors aren’t even considering.

Commit yourself to being someone who tries to see potential in every person and every situation. When it seems you have reached a dead end, take a hope-filled breath and view it as an opportunity to build something better. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, gave this example:

Thomas Edison knew a thing or two about turning an obstacle into an opportunity. When he was in his late sixties, his huge West Orange New Jersey laboratory burnt to the ground. Rather than cursing his luck and panicking, he gathered family and friends to marvel at the fire and immediately began planning for the future. Edison started plans for a much-improved lab, seeing the potential for improvement the disaster had presented. He said: “You can always make capital out of disaster. We’ve just cleared out a bunch of old rubbish! We’ll build bigger and better on these ruins.”

Find the good in whatever situation you’re presented with and you’ll be on your way to finding those hidden opportunities.

 

 


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Understanding Intent versus Impact in the World of Marketing

ThinkstockPhotos-667556640It is essential to understand as much about your audience as possible, especially the differences between “intent” and “impact” in the world of marketing. Intent is something that you have total control over – it’s what every font selection, every color choice, every turn of phrase and every piece of collateral is ultimately building towards. Impact, on the other hand, is something else entirely. Making an effort to understand the difference between these two concepts is the key to maximum success moving forward.

It All Comes Down to Perspective

The major difference between intent and impact ultimately comes down to a matter of perspective, or an acknowledgment that sometimes a statement (or in this case, a marketing message) isn’t necessarily as “black and white” as you may have thought it was. In addition to knowing who the people you’re marketing to actually are, it’s important to understand as much as you can about the way they think.

Before you send any marketing message out into the world, there are a few key questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How will this message play in different regions of the country? Are there certain terms that are used one way on the coasts and another way in middle America? What difference does that make, if any, in terms of how that message would be received?
  • How do pain points differ based on audience? Is a very specific problem that one portion of your audience has not an issue at all to others? How does something like economic status play into how a particular message might be received?
  • How will the culture change the way the impact of a message varies when compared to the original intent? Even if you’re not a global company, think about things from that perspective. You would probably have to make some adjustments to your messaging when marketing to customers in Europe versus those in the United States as you’re talking about two totally different cultures with different norms and taboos. Are there any cultural implications that might adjust the impact of your message in a way you’re unprepared for?

This approach will help give you as much insight as possible into the various perspectives of the people you’re trying to reach, which can not only make campaigns resonate more but it can also help avoid sticky issues like this one at the same time.

At the end of the day, the difference between intent and impact in the world of marketing can be summarized like this. “Intent” is the thing that you were trying to do – the message you were trying to convey or the goal you were trying to accomplish. “Impact” is what you actually did, which itself is influenced by a wide array of different factors. Sometimes a message that you had complete confidence in is received in a way that you could never have predicted and these are the types of moments you need to be ready for.

 

 


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Family Support is Key for Succession in a Family Business

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Running a successful family business inevitably comes to a critical decision – how to continue the business when the current business owner decides it is time to retire and step away? Some decide to shut the business down

Others sell it to an outsider. Still, others decide to groom a family member to take over, but this can be fraught with risk if the young person turns out to not be interested, prepared, or the right fit.

Ready for a Change

Virenda Gupta found himself in a critical decision place when he was ready to enjoy the rewards of his own hard work building his property tax consultancy. Founded in 1986, RETC was a well-run operation that had taken years and years of dedication, especially in the highly technical accounting world of tax advising. But it was time for Virenda to travel, see family, go back to his historical home in India for visits, and reap some rewards for a change. However, RETC needed to still be managed and directed.

Positioning for Success

Virenda’s son, Amish, had initially brought up the hard topic, but both men were engaged and ready to really address the matter on all the key topics of compensation, authority, and ownership. Because they were willing to take it seriously, Virenda and Amish were able to craft a functional and working succession plan, ensuring RETC was positioned to continue for decades to come. And this was a key shift that is essential for family transition; if the current owner cannot envision handing over the reins, the succession discussion with a family member almost always ends in frustration.

Virenda’s willingness to work towards succession is not common. In fact, only one out of three family businesses make it to a second owner generation, and only a little more than one out of ten make it to a third family generation. Beyond that, the figure gets down to a single percentage digit below 5 percent. However, some of the greatest resistance is manageable; owners have to get past their role of making all the decisions leading to success and let someone else step forward. And that includes making mistakes. Planning is a key aspect, and smart owners start well ahead of a succession date, grooming potential family replacements years before. There is no 24-hour decision-making in this approach.

Proof Beyond Just Being Family

Virenda is lucky; his son wants the leadership role and is qualified. In almost one out of two cases a non-family member is more qualified to take the leadership role instead. Virenda made a key step to ensure his family was prepared. He chose his son as a potential successor after Amish had proven himself capable doing the work. He then let Amish work elsewhere and earn his stripes versus being protected internally due to just being family. Virenda then had to convince Amish to come back and take the role versus staying on the lucrative path he was already on with big corporations. That meant providing a real path and share for Amish instead of just a figurehead position.

How to Do it Right

Experts are in agreement on the key points of family success:

  • Don’t pressure kids to take on a role they are not prepared for.
  • Take on the tough conversation of succession and embrace it honestly with every detail.
  • Get children involved early, foster their interest and love for the business, and then make sure they have all the training needed.
  • Work as a team with everyone having a vested interested in the business’ success. Ownership is personal and drives people to commit.

Virenda is now enjoying travel and time to relax in his retirement, and Amish is fully-engaged in his role as RETC’s leader. Their story is both a case study of what’s done right in a family business succession as well what it takes to prepare for that moment.

 

 


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The No Tears Guide to Letting Someone Go

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Having to terminate an employee is never fun. Even if you’ve had to execute this task hundreds of times over the course of your career, it never gets easier. Everyone understands how devastating and humiliating it can be to lose a job and, as a leader, you must find a way to handle the dismissal in the best way possible.

Come Prepared

Nothing is worse than a manager who is wishy-washy. Go over the employee’s track record ahead of time to confirm the employee’s performance merits dismissal. Ideally, you would have met with the employee previously and given them the proper warnings and a chance to rise to your expectations (think: three-strike policy). Regardless, the employee is going to want a clear answer to why he or she is being let go, and you need to provide a compelling reason.

Before the meeting, get all your ducks in a row regarding termination policies. Be prepared to settle the questions whirling in your employee’s mind: When will he get his last paycheck? Is she entitled to a severance package? What’s the timeframe for clearing out his desk? Before you draw up a termination contract, double check policies to ensure accuracy.

Set the Scene

It should go without saying, but terminating someone in a public setting is the ultimate faux pas. You’re not making an example of someone; you’re making the rest of your team dislike you. Find a private room in the office and shut the door. Silence the phones and computers. The time of day you call the meeting doesn’t matter. Honestly, there’s no “best” time to dismiss an employee. Ideally, get it done as soon as possible since delaying the inevitable makes an already hard situation worse. Once you start the meeting, cut to the chase. Small talk isn’t going to soften the blow. Aim for a considerate tone, but avoid sounding emotional during the conversation.

The Right Way Versus the Wrong Way

There are two ways most termination conversations can go. If a manager does it the wrong way, you’re likely to have the employee react in one of two ways: tears or yelling. Take the following two scenarios:

Wrong Way

Sylvia is called into a meeting where she has to sit and wait for fifteen minutes while you finish a personal phone call. You try the direct approach and tell her she’s dismissed effective immediately. You don’t give her much feedback on her performance and direct her to HR about her final paycheck and insurance benefits. You usher her out of your office in less than ten minutes.

What went wrong here? Sylvia is likely to feel humiliated over the abrupt dismissal. She is confused over what went wrong and will have no idea how to plan out her next move.

Right Way

You have had consistent contact with Sylvia prior to the meeting about her performance. You’ve offered guidance on how to help her succeed in her role. After multiple attempts at trying to resolve the situation, you and Sylvia both realize the position and company isn’t the right fit for her. When you call her into a meeting to let her go, she’s not surprised. You give her all of the details about her termination and ask for her to sign a termination contract after she takes the time to look it over.

In this scenario, you have let Sylvia go compassionately and professionally. She can use this experience to excel in her future endeavors. Your reputation as a fair and considerate manager stays well intact.

Inform the Masses

Avoid causing a workplace-wide panic by being transparent with the rest of your staff. You don’t have to give your team all the details about the dismissal but offer reassurance that the termination wasn’t the first in a string of firings.

Firing an employee is hands down the hardest part of being in a leadership position. At the end of the day, reassure yourself that the termination is necessary to avoid ultimately hurting the company.

 


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From Survival to Full Bloom

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Eliza Blank was tired of the gloomy atmosphere in her cramped New York apartment. Eliza began dabbling with houseplants, and her passion quickly bloomed into a budding small business. In 2012, Blank launched “The Sill” to bring color and hope to stale Manhattan apartments, equipping new “parents” by transforming certified plant killers into botanical aficionados. The Sill works to match the right plant to the right space, offering hands-on coaching that helps “aspiring green thumbs (and potential customers) feel at ease.”

The Sill operates both on and offline, recently opening its second brick-and-mortar shop in New York’s Upper West Side. Last year, sales topped $2 million, and a website redesign doubled online traffic and newsletter subscriptions. But the Sill had a few obstacles along the way. In the first year, the company’s co-founder bailed as Blank hustled to handle marketing, orders, and deliveries. “It was me, a desk, and a computer – I was writing the product descriptions, potting the plants, delivering the plants, and doing everything myself . . . I (sometimes) joke that I’m the CEO, but also the janitor,” Blank says. “I’m still straddling those two roles.”

While Blank credits several factors to her success, education as a service was a key component. Since prospects were often daunted by caring for a living product, the company organized sales around blogging, coaching, and newsletters. “Not everyone who comes to the website is there to shop. We believe it serves us to serve prospective customers through helpful content,” Blank says. As clients gained confidence, sales exploded. Even if blog readers don’t come to buy, Blank believes valuable content is a catalyst, because “we are then top of mind when the time comes to purchase – and the trust is already there.”

Blogging That Brings Business to Life

Perhaps you’ve toyed with the idea of business blogging yourself, but you’ve been hesitant to try. With so much to do, why bother with something that doesn’t yield immediate, obvious benefits? Content and social media can be a cost-effective way to not only complement your print marketing but also to promote your company, grow revenue, and enhance your reputation as a trustworthy resource. Check out these tips from blog coach Gary Dek to make your business blogging easier:

  1. Research competitors’ blogs to learn what works or to strengthen your own unique voice.
  2. Identify your target demographic and blog specifically to this audience.
  3. Publish in-depth resources that answer questions, offer step-by-step guides, and solve specific problems.
  4. Promote your content through social media, direct mail, e-mail, or asking core customers to re-post.
  5. Involve everyone on your team to contribute topic ideas, design concepts, or content submissions of their own. Work to humanize the company in a way that’s enjoyable and fun!
  6. Consider using guest bloggers to put your content in front of new audiences and give you greater influence and credibility.

Drive People Online with Direct Mail Marketing

Want to drive people online to your growing content? One of the best tools to increase website traffic is direct mail. A 2015 Direct Marketing Association study revealed that 78% of people react to direct mail immediately, with 44% visiting the brand’s website and 34% searching online for additional product information. Recent research shows that very active smartphone users are reading more print materials than any other target demographic!

As you grow your online AND offline presence, we’re here to help! As your local printing connection, we’re more than just a contracted vendor; we’re an invested partner, committed to efficiency, precise brand matching, and to the customer care you deserve. Stop in and see us today!

 


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Why Developing Good Leaders is Critical to Your Business’ Success

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Regardless of the type of business you’re running or even the industry that you find yourself operating in, everyone knows that quality leadership is essential. It’s equally essential for you to realize that leadership doesn’t begin and end with whoever’s name is on the door. Experience goes a long way, but the type of raw, natural talent necessary to become a good leader isn’t something that can necessarily be taught. It’s something you’re born with.

That’s why when you do recognize that you’ve got the makings of an excellent leader working with you, it is imperative that you do whatever it takes to help cultivate and develop that talent whenever possible.

Identifying Good Leaders

First thing’s first: not everyone working for your company has the makings of a good leader, regardless of how you currently feel about them. According to one recent study, only about one out of every ten people have the talent necessary to rise to this status. That means that spotting a candidate isn’t something that is just going to happen every day.

When you do see someone with the qualities of an excellent leader, you’ll know it. They’re usually the first people to arrive and the last to leave. They’re the people who keep a consistently cool head under pressure and who naturally seem to help elevate the rest of their teams to the level where everyone involved is doing their best work. They work incredibly hard for seemingly no reward at all because they just don’t know any other way to go about their day.

When you see someone who fits that description, make a note of it. They’re probably going to be running your business one day.

The Development Process

Once you have identified one of these fabled “good leaders,” the first thing you have to do is support them in any and all ways that you can. Never be shy about feedback, even when it’s critical in nature. The chances are high that they’re the type of person who welcomes constructive criticism anyway. Don’t just tell them what they’re doing correctly; make sure they know what they can do to improve and, more importantly, how they can do it.

Next, challenge them whenever possible. Don’t throw your growing leaders into the proverbial deep end of the pool to fend for themselves, but don’t allow them to simply spin their wheels either. Challenge and adversity are two important qualities that make all of us stronger. Little by little, this person will start to grow and evolve in front of your eyes and your business will become all the better for it.

Looking Towards the Horizon

Finally, remember that good leaders are an investment in the future of your company. Good leaders don’t just help in terms of collaboration and more substantial productivity.  They’re also innovation creation engines at the same time. By taking the time to develop the good leaders in your midsts today, you’re going a long way towards guaranteeing future success for your business.


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