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Being the Boss Doesn’t Make You a Leader

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We’ll call this shop owner John. John is the boss; he believes he’s also the shop’s leader. But he is mistaken.

Each day he repeats his commands to his employees, and for the most part they obey. However, his employees don’t act on their own. John’s workplace is like a scene from the movie Groundhog Day where every day is a repeat of the day before.

John is the owner of his company, which also makes him the boss—a title bestowed upon him merely because of his ownership. But shop leader? That title is not automatically given to him. Until John realizes this, he will be forever stuck in the Groundhog Day effect, where each day’s outcome depends on John’s decisions and commands—an exhausting way to manage a shop; where very little, if any, business progress is possible.

Most owners become very proficient in knowing how to run a business. But, knowing how to run a business and how to lead people are two very different things. Reaching a shop’s potential and long-term success requires a shop culture where employees are united by a common purpose.

Directing people is what bosses do, but dictating orders does not mean people understand why they are following them. If employees don’t understand the “why” they will only perform those tasks because they feel they have to. And if people don’t fully believe in what they are being asked to do, there is no reason for them to repeat those tasks on their own. This also results in the Groundhog Day effect.

Leaders get others to follow them because there is a common emotional connection between the individuals and management. How this is accomplished requires a different style of managing people. As shop owners learn to become leaders, they realize that it’s not only their perspective that matters, but also the perspective of the people around them. Leaders are more effective, create higher morale and reach greater success because the entire team has a shared purpose and will work in unity.

Let’s outline a few key steps to transform a boss to a leader.

First, it’s all about people. People are the foundation of a company’s success and owners need to create an environment where employees understand that their personal success is dependent on the success of the team. This requires a leader that creates a workplace based on respect and trust. Leaders also encourage employees to become more independent and make decisions on their own.

Second, help employees grow within your company. Allow people to become responsible for their future. This happens best when the leader is directly responsible for their growth through training, one on one reviews and team meetings. Equally important is praise and recognition for hard work, and accomplishments. Please understand that the people will make mistakes. It’s important that we use mishaps as a teaching tool. If you encourage and praise the right performance, people will be receptive to you when you bring up when they dropped the ball.

Third, understand what matters to others. This is a tough one. After all, the shop owner knows exactly what it takes to operate a business, and when things go wrong, it’s the job of the shop owner to make things right. You need to understand that your employees view the world from a different position. You may not always agree with their viewpoint, but to move forward and improve, you must listen and find common ground with employees.

Lastly, take the heat when things go wrong and give all the praise to others when things go right. There is no better way to gain respect from your employees than by understanding this fundamental principle. Leaders are no different than coaches. All great coaches blame themselves when they lose and give all the credit to the players when they win. This one strategy will do amazing things for your shop. This also creates the right mindset for you, and will push you to work on the important things when challenges do occur.

John, like most of us, finally realized that the Groundhog Day effect is a punishing way to run a business. Become a true leader, and the outcome of each day will not be fully dependent on your decisions and commands, but will become a combined effort from your entire team. And wouldn’t it be great if that was what we repeated each and every day?

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