Are you leading your SME to success?

Your product or service is really not the biggest asset of your business – the answer is far more personal.

As a business owner or senior team member, do you consider yourself a leader? If you do see leadership as part of your role, how meaningful do you regard your work?

In my role as director of the Sydney business development service Think Maven, I often ask SME owners what they consider the biggest asset in their business. The response is nearly always the product or service they sell.

While there is some truth in this, what really makes the difference in your business is you: how you self-lead and lead the team around you is the biggest intangible asset of your business. Products and services grow, evolve and change. Consumers are less loyal today than they once were. The demand for innovation and value is at an all-time high thanks to digital disruption and major global players entering the market.

Your product or service is a business asset in as much as it is the result of the meaning (value) and performance (productivity) of yourself and your team. How your SME performs and lasts the distance is a reflection of how you lead yourself, and the team around you. Ask yourself this: are you leaning into your potential and leading your SME to success in leaps and bounds, or micromanaging your way there one step at a time?

“How you self-lead and lead the team around you is the biggest intangible asset of your business.”

Down the list

It was not until I started my own business that I truly embraced the challenges SMEs face. There are never enough hours in the day, you need to wear many hats, fight fires, be a manager, leader and PA all in one, and that’s an average day in the office. Family, partners and friends are all fighting for attention as well. Quite often, this means the focus on “self” falls down the list. But to gain your leading edge in your business, your personal development needs to be at the top.

How you find the energy, clarity and courage to challenge the status quo and separate yourself from the competition, I believe, comes down to how you self-lead and the quality of your thoughts. Self-leadership International defines self-leadership as “having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, where you are going coupled with the ability to influence your communication, emotions and behaviours on the way to getting there”.

Self-leadership is having the courage to be able to look at yourself as a human being, and truly drill down to the core of your own meanings and values. You need to look at what is serving you, and what is stopping you or holding you back.

Be honest

NLP (neuro-linguistic programing) trainer Dr Michael Hall, the co-founder of neuro-semantics with whom I trained in meta-coaching, says in his book Unleashing Leadership that people generally spend most their time and life at work. “This means that work consumes most of your time, energy, efforts and thoughts. How you act, feel, think and relate in your work context mostly determines the quality of your life.”

As an SME leader, how do you personally react to that statement? If you have 15 minutes to spare, ask yourself these questions (and be honest with the answers):

  • On which side of the fence do you sit as a leader?
  • Do you fear failure, or do you regard failure as an opportunity?
  • Do you value power and control, or do you influence creativity and inspiration?
  • Do you become caught up in the detail, or do you set the direction and the vision?

Then the question is, how does self-leadership impact the performance of your SME? When a company develops a synergy of meaning and performance, its staff members are more likely to have high levels of engagement, resulting in greater levels of productivity and performance.

Can businesses achieve this on their own? Yes, it is possible, but in the same way that athletes have a professional coach for sporting excellence, a leadership coach can help you excel in your business and in life, and get you there much faster that you would on your own.

According to W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, authors of Blue Ocean Shift, the coaching industry is the fastest-growing profession in the US, creating a “new demand, as people flock to life coaches to become more effective in both their personal and professional lives”.

“A leadership coach can help you excel in your business and in life, and get you there much faster that you would on your own.”

Behind the role

As you become more self-aware as the human being behind the role of business owner, manager, mentor – however you label yourself – are you truly stepping into self-leadership? If not, how could a coach help you lead your SME to success?

Here are some clues that may be helpful…

  • Determine your “why”, and challenge conventional wisdom, the status quo.
  • Embody the belief that you are your best asset, resource, plan B and C in one.
  • Become more fearless, and truly understand that failure leads to growth.
  • Overcome problems and create a strategy to establish your own path to success .
  • Know your personal value beyond your product or service, as it will be your motivation when the going gets tough.
  • Learn to take feedback like a pro – it is an essential component of growth.
  • Seek new perspectives that can help you identify your blind spots.
  • Gain flexibility – colour outside of the lines once in a while, you may just enjoy it.
  • Release the need to control people and outcomes – as author Vivian Greene says, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain”.

Also keep in mind this quote from Good to Great author Jim Collins, “In the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.”

So, is personal development and coaching good for the return on investment of your SME? Dr Michael Hall articulates it perfectly. “Yes. Business is with people, through people and by people. It is the only workable, long-term business model.”

What will you be investing in for your SME this year and beyond?

Frances Wills, director, Think Maven

This story first appeared in issue 20 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine.

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