Successful leaders don’t view their teams as working for them; instead, these leaders work for their teams. Our main role as business leaders isn’t to focus only on results, but ultimately, it’s to clear hurdles so that others can exceed at their jobs.
In my 20+ years of experience across sports, music and now tech, I’ve learned that creating a culture built on trust and respect is the first and most important priority when setting up your business for success.
Yet taking the time to actively nurture these qualities from the top down can become increasingly difficult as you juggle the different responsibilities that come with running a company.
Whether you’re part of a small startup or a multi-billion dollar company, below are key leadership tips you can use today.
Embrace the Hard Conversations
With leadership comes tough decisions and hard conversations, especially when strong emotions and working relationships are involved. And while you might be tempted to shy away from these discussions or delegate the responsibility to your direct reports, ultimately, you as the leader must initiate and drive the dialogue.
I’ve found holding monthly roundtables with my employees to be an effective way to have a pulse on how everyone feels and to also dive deeper into sensitive topics in more intimate settings. Within these roundtable discussions, I address any confusion head on. I also encourage participants to ask questions, even around difficult topics, and I always try to give thoughtful, candid answers. Having a regular cadence of these meetings helps build trust and lets people know we can talk about anything.
Implementing an open door, open ear policy
Listening to employees — regardless of rank — can motivate and excite people about the work they’re doing. With an “open door, open ear” policy, you create a culture where everyone feels heard and valued.
Make yourself available to discuss anything with anyone, direct report or not, and actively practice listening more than you talk. This policy means that sometimes you’ll have to put important priorities aside to ensure that your team feels they have the space to freely express what’s on their minds.
Carving out time for these meetings is key, and you’ll learn important information about what’s working and what’s not working across different areas of your business. This is invaluable information that will help make sure your team is operating at their full potential for maximum results. Make sure to listen more than you talk; feeling heard is a key part of building trust.
Trust and Be Trusted
You built your team structure for a reason; each individual has unique traits and special attributes that you value. Trust the team you assembled and let people do the jobs you hired them to do. That means giving them the freedom to make decisions, to experiment and to try new strategies. Sure, sometimes these ideas work out, and sometimes they won’t, but risk-taking is essential to get to the next level. The important nugget here: make a decision! And if you see an idea going in the wrong direction, course correct but do not stagnate, or else you will turn in circles.
I’ve never met anyone who has enjoyed being micromanaged let alone doubted in his/her ability to get the job done. Alternatively, creating a professional environment of support and encouragement can breed creativity, stellar performance and take the organization to new heights. Your team must know it has your full trust — that you will embolden ideas, provide the power to execute and underscore the importance of taking on new challenges.
As a business leader, it’s easy to get caught up in the ideas you think will drive more revenue and really move the needle. But it’s more than that; it’s about building a team that genuinely loves waking up for work in the morning,
and you do that by ensuring trust and respect are at the forefront of everything you do as a leader. When I look at my team and see people who have been with me for 18+ years at four different companies, I know that it’s because of the trust and respect we’ve built into the work environment and the business. Plus, this means my team can perform at the best of their abilities.
About the Author
Ralf Jacob is the Head of Digital Media Services for Oath. Ralf brings more than 20 years of technical and executive management experience to the organization. He has a vast experience in his entire professional journey. Prior to the acquisition with Verizon, Ralf was the Co-founder & CEO at upLynk from 2010 to 2013, VP of Digital Media at Deluxe Digital Studios from January 2011 to September 2012, VP of Operations at Blink Digital Ascent Media from January 2010 to January 2011, and the queue goes on. Ralf earned B.A. degrees in Marketing and Computer Science from Fachhochschule Wiesbaden, Germany. He was a member of the German Olympic team in diving.