I recently came across this quote by Theodore Roosevelt…
‘People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads and the boss drives’
…and it got me thinking.
As accountancy practice owners we have a huge responsibility to our team members.
A responsibility to lead.
And if you think about some of the great leaders throughout history, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi to name just a few, they weren’t great because they barked orders and just expected people to follow…
They were great because they inspired people to believe in a bigger vision, they led by example and acted in the interests of a clear set of values.
Now it’s fairly easy to delegate tasks and give our team members deadlines to meet.
But it takes a lot more to lead your team to use their initiative, encourage enthusiasm and take ownership of their workload.
So how can we maximise our leadership skills?
Seek feedback and listen
Your ability to listen is something that can have the biggest impact on whether you are seen as a boss or a great leader.
And I’m sure listening to client feedback is an integral part of your practice’s customer service strategy.
So if you are asking your clients for feedback and comments, why not be regularly asking your team members so you can work on bettering your own leadership skills.
You could do this by:
- Having a dedicated time in the weekly meeting for further comments and ideas
- Allocate ‘drop-in’ time, quarterly perhaps, for team members to come and speak to you
- Ask team members questions whenever relevant
- Use performance management software such as 15five.
A big mistake you can make as a practice owner is to simply assume all your team are happy with their situation and working life.
If you are not available to listen to team concerns and queries you are in danger of building a wall between you both.
And this can create an ‘us and them’ atmosphere.
Which is much more like dictatorship, than leadership.
Create clear practice values and stick to them!
It’s commonly suggested that employees work and respond better when they feel they are working for a higher purpose or in respect of values that are personal to them.
So it’s important to establish a clear set of practice values with your team.
If your team members take an active part in establishing these values, they’ll be more likely to assume ownership of them.
And as their leader, your actions and management should reflect these core values.
For example, you may agree that one of your team values will be:
‘We will use our drive and dedication to energise and inspire others”
And as a leader, you will then have a responsibility to ensure that each team member pulls their weight equally as they assist and help motivate each another to succeed.
If you share the same set of values and principles as your team members you’ll take a big step towards creating a great team culture and ensuring mutual respect.
You will also show that you too are as accountable as they are to follow and implement them.
A excellent example of great leadership can be seen in a team whose team members have autonomy.
It’s fair to say most employees would love to have more autonomy over their work.
And as Dan Pink argues in his book ‘The surprising truth about what motivates us’ autonomy is actually one of the 3 major motivators for many people.
So to get the most out of your team you could:
- Create opportunities for staff to pick team meeting topics
- Offer ownership of certain tasks
- Allow team members to approach tasks with their own methods
- Encourage staff to explore their own ideas in work hours
And by doing so you are showing a high level of trust in your team members and showing confidence in their ability to perform.
Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t check in and monitor staff progress as they complete tasks.
But if you take a step back, guide team members and offer input when necessary, you will be contributing far more to their personal development and success.
You’ll also give yourself more time to work on developing your practice.
Keep your finger on the pulse
It’s important, as the practice leader, to keep your finger on the pulse and be aware of everything that is going on in your team.
Especially if you aren’t micro-managing them.
So in order to provide valuable input and lead your team to further success, you need to regularly ensure that you are aware of where your team members are and what progress they have made, if any.
This could easily be done by:
- Having team members update personal project plans
- Allocate time in the team meeting to discuss the plan for the week
- Make use of project and task management software such as Asana
- Organise team days out to engage with your team socially
Regular contact and updates show you aren’t simply there to bark orders.
You are following and supporting your team members with each step they take.
Know the way, show the way and go the way
You can’t lead from the side-lines and you can’t lead from the middle of the action either.
So, it’s important that you find the right balance.
Every team in any practice can have a boss.
But what they really need is a leader.
That’s where the real value lies.
So which one are you?