Being proactive as a leader is one of the best things you can do for your team. The more leaders can stay current with their team, their business, and their competitors, the better they can help their employees plan and implement new strategies. Passive leadership does not generate the productivity and development your company needs to grow and thrive.
When talking about proactive leadership, I like to break it down into two categories: internal and external. Stay proactive in both areas, and you’ll be empowered to lead your business further than you might have thought possible.
Internal Proactive Leadership
Internal leadership, obviously, corresponds to everything going on within your organization. There are three key components to proactive internal leadership that all tie together.
Instilling trust in any organization starts at the top. If a leader doesn’t consistently demonstrate trust in employees, how can that individual expect to be trusted in return? To develop a culture of trust in your own company, be proactive with your approach.
Start by assuming the trustworthiness and good intentions of each team member—at least until an individual proves otherwise. Hasty assumptions and finger-pointing will quickly dissolve any trust you’ve cultivated with your team. In case you do hit a snag, develop feedback mechanisms that will provide the perspective you need to approach each situation in a clear-sighted way.
There’s another practice that can seriously undermine trust between you and your team: micromanagement. When you micromanage, even if you’re just trying to help, your employees will conclude that you don’t trust them to do their jobs. Replace micromanagement with a culture of autonomy, taking the steps necessary to empower your team members to take ownership of their work.
Trust goes hand-in-hand with respect. The way most people are built, you first have to show respect before you will ever fully gain someone’s trust.
Respect your team’s time by being clear and efficient when communicating deadlines and expectations. Respect their needs by providing benefits that include insurance coverage and flexible time off for those can’t-miss family events. These are the types of actions that demonstrate respect. Your employees will reciprocate with dedication and loyalty to the organization.
Respect, in turn, depends on each team member pulling their own weight. One-on-one meetings with your employees will allow you to dig deeper into both their performance and your leadership skills. Prepare written notes on performance changes in each of your team members — positive or negative — and share them openly in your meeting. Your one-to-one meetings need to deliver clear objectives and a framework for any needed changes, providing an opportunity for each employee to fulfill their potential.
Keeping track of key performance metrics for your entire team will help you provide meaningful feedback. Knowing, for example, that your sales team is struggling to generate leads gives you something concrete to work on with them. If you’re not addressing specific issues, your leadership efforts will end up being little more than a shot in the dark.
External Proactive Leadership
There are always external forces at play affecting the health of your business. How you navigate the storms surrounding your company will determine whether you make it through or begin to sink. Any sailor can tell you that passive sailing isn’t going to get you where you want to go.
Keep an eye on your company’s sales across several years and note any deviations your team might expect at different times of the year. These insights can help team members take action to prevent a slow sales season. Passing on the knowledge you’ve gained in your years of heading the organization will prevent employees from having to learn lessons the hard way.
For example, say your historical data shows that your sales numbers tend to go down in the winter. What can you do to proactively lead your company during those months? You might put together an annual office sales competition or try out a new lead-generation strategy to help counteract an otherwise slow time of year.
Effective leaders should be aware of industry trends that will impact their company, regardless of their internal efforts. You can’t reasonably expect all of your employees to stay on top of every Forbes article addressing your company’s niche or all the new strategies being implemented by your competitors. That’s your job. With your connections and experience, you must take the lead in capitalizing on changing business trends.
My friend and business partner John Rampton is a great example to me when it comes to scoping out business trends. He specializes in search engine optimization, something I’m not as well versed in. Rampton does a fantastic job of keeping me and my team up-to-date on new developments in the SEO world so that we can implement changes more effectively.
Be on the lookout for new opportunities, such as conferences and speaking engagements, to seek potential leads. As the face of your business, your outreach efforts will likely have a much greater impact than those of your employees. It’s your responsibility to direct the brand and put your team in a position to grow.
Say you get invited to an exclusive conference where you’ll be chatting with the movers and shakers in your industry. Seize the opportunity to connect with these people, who tend to be the decision-makers for their respective firms. A short conversation between you and a new contact can set up employees on both ends to get some B2B sales going in a reduced amount of time.
What changes do you need to make in order to lead more proactively? Start by looking for ways to be more attentive, receptive, and open-minded when leading your team. When you’re proactive, you’ll look to find solutions before they’re desperately needed and spearhead innovation without allowing your business to miss a beat.