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Leadership mastery: Knowing your weaknesses

Apparently, employees leave managers, not companies.

Bridgette Hyacinth, an expert in HR and leadership writes “In spite of how good a job may be, people will quit if the reporting relationship is not healthy”. Despite evidence that 50% of American workers voluntarily leave their jobs because of bosses, the statement remains questioned.

According to data gathered by Culture Amp, only 12% of the decision-making process made by an employee before leaving a job, was down to the manager. Their opinion: development opportunities. In fact, their research discovered that 54% of workers leave employment due to lack of professional development.

Regardless of the truth, profitable company’s have great leaders that continually inspire, engage, and nurture their employees. To do this effectively, a leader must know their weaknesses. How can a business grow if its senior leadership are unaware of where they need to improve?

Small business success goes hand in hand with talented leadership, and that leadership must create an efficient, happy and profitable workforce. An essential part of that talent is an authentic leader who knows themselves. Through a deep understanding of pitfalls, you can be honest with yourself, and your team, to make for a happier and healthier work environment.

Encourage growth: Don’t stick with the status quo

Leaders encourage growth

Great leaders inspire personal and team growth. Look for ways to do things differently and fight for a fresh perspective. It is through new points of view that you will recognise your weaknesses – look retrospectively and question what didn’t work and why. Identify those problems and address them today.

Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest steppingstones to success – Dale Carnegie, American writer and lecturer on self-improvement and corporate training.

Once you have discovered those weaknesses, hire talented people to fill the gaps. Not only does this enable you to focus on utilising your strengths further, it also allows you to nurture and drive the growth of your workers. When the areas that were once failing in your small business begin to excel, as a result of those new hires, you can spend more time enhancing the skills of your team for even more success.

Build relationships

Work relationships

Leaders who have a quiet confidence and humility are most respected. Understanding your shortfalls, and expressing them openly, is a great way to build relationships with colleagues. Most of all, addressing your weaknesses with those around you, fosters a relationship of honesty. Be honest with them, and they’ll be honest with you.

Weaknesses support strategy

Leadership weaknesses strategy

Knowing your areas for improvement helps you to organise your team for business success. This is especially powerful when you might be going through a busy period or a business change. When planning out these changes, create scenarios to take advantage of your strengths and those of your team.

How to identify your weaknesses

It’s all well and good saying “Identify your weaknesses”, but that is a difficult process to go through. Not only is it a little soul-destroying (at first), how do you even begin?

Look for strengths, then flip them

It may seem a little odd to pick out your strengths when spotting weaknesses, but it works, promise. Think about the negative qualities of your most beneficial skills as a leader –  what kind of downsides can you come up with?

Perhaps you are a stickler for detail, spending a lot of time perfecting your work. This is great, but it does mean that by getting down into the detail, it takes away from the big-picture thinking. Or, if you’re the type of person who likes to be organised and process-driven, you might stress yourself out or stifle creativity if anything, or anyone, deviates from that process.

Ask for feedback

Talk to your team, colleagues, and professional network and ask them for their honest feedback. Create a channel that allows for anonymous, unfiltered opinions on your leadership style. Very few people would feel comfortable identifying weaknesses in their manager, so take a considered approach to this before jumping straight in with “What do I do wrong?”.

Give people time. In the Harvard Business Review, leading social scientist for business performance Joseph Grenny, provides a few pointers for both managers and employees on giving feedback (there’s also a funny header image that’s worth checking out). A key takeaway is to make feedback normal. He writes “Make employee-to-manager feedback a regular agenda item at team meetings. If you have made commitments to improve, take a moment to report on what you have done, and then ask team members to rate your effort on a scale of 1 to 10.”

Listen and observe

Be aware of what your colleagues, customers/clients, and team members are saying to you and how they are acting. Often, you can see your weaknesses manifest in the people around you. If you tend to be a direct and hyper-organised leader, people may seem a little hesitant to make even the smallest of decisions without your sign off. Or, perhaps, you allow your team to see your stress and worries, causing them to mirror those emotions and become increasingly anxious and aware of how they act around you.

Equally, it’s important to remember not to become paranoid about everything people are saying and doing. Yes, occasionally check in to the room and make sure your colleagues happy and on track, but don’t become obsessive.

Often, in business, people tend to avoid talking about their weaknesses for fear of them coming back to bite. But, identifying and harnessing those weaknesses is a powerful method of increasing productivity, improving team morale, and providing the mental space to think strategically.

Key takeaway

Leadership is about more than just inspiring your team and increasing the bottom line; it is about personal and professional development, of both yourself and your team. Identifying shortcomings is an essential tool to develop your leadership skills. Have a go at implementing the above techniques to take your small business to the next level.

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