Every month, we speak to a different leading business figure about their area of expertise. We hope these interviews can provide small business managers the chance to improve and expand their talents, and subsequently improve the products and services their business provides.
This month we speak to Zoe Morris about the powers of influence a business leader should possess. Zoe is President of Jefferson Frank, part of Frank Recruitment Group, and oversees its ongoing business and sales operations, employee training, and hiring initiatives globally.
Here is what Zoe has to say.
Broadly speaking, what would you say are the general skills no good leader should be without?
I think the secret to leadership can be broken down into two areas. Firstly, believe in the ideology you're leading by ensuring every action you take demonstrates your commitment to the goals of the company. If you expect prosperity and success before commitment to the cause, you will never have either. One of the responsibilities of leadership is to demonstrate to critics that you’re devoted to your dream by showing a capability to persevere and a genuine passion for what you do.
Secondly, establish a dedicated team by devoting time to connect with them, actively listen to their opinions and create an environment to spread innovative ideas that will bring great value to your company.
Leaders need to have everyone on board when presenting an idea or vision. How can a leader establish credibility to ensure they have buy-in from everyone on their team?
To establish credibility, you need to find the balance between when to take a step back to allow the team to flourish and when to demonstrate authority on a final decision for the benefit of the company. It can be a tricky balance to find and takes years of practice. I found that people value being heard more than agreeing with their idea; so, a vital skill as a leader is the ability to actively listen to your team and their ideas.
How can language and verbiage be used to reinforce your message in a persuasive way?
I think a great leader shouldn't water down their message to try and please everyone. Instead, they should connect with an audience that will bring great value to their company. Once you understand an audience, you can gain a better sense of their emotional state, which will allow you to adjust your message to suit their tone.
I find in today's industry; people are more curious when it comes to their work, replacing their response of "what should I do?" with "why should I do it?"; as leaders, we must be able to answer the "why" effectively. To do this, reinforce your message with positive communication and compelling data; never disregard an employee from being inquisitive; it demonstrates a willingness to learn and excel in your company.
Connecting on an emotional level is important in leadership. What methods can be used to make sure you’re connecting with your team personally?
The key to a great relationship with your employees is to provide an open and honest dialogue with them. To ensure this happens, I try to be as transparent as possible with my objectives and methodology during a project.
I will also take the time to engage with individual team members to understand their strengths and weaknesses and how their characteristics can augment the project at hand.
Ultimately you need to have respect for your employees, actively listen to their requests, and provide them with the resources they need to do a job successfully.
How do you maintain inspirational leadership even as an organisation gets larger?
I think it’s important to encourage self-development with your employees. I would recommend regular personal stretch goals for your employees, to help them visualise the unlimited possibility both for your business and their career.
Always articulate your intentions for the company in a clear, concise manner to ensure your vision for the brand doesn’t get misconstrued down the employee pipeline. And finally, be consistent with your leadership style; an erratic or inconsistent leader will damage the company culture and the productivity of the organisation.
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As a leader, how should the core values of an organisation be communicated? And how often?
Core values are a great reminder of the overall goal for a company, and when communicated correctly, can unify teams across the business. We use a variety of tactics to ensure our core values can provide an encouraging incentive for each employee.
Our tactics include both internal and external branding, training paths for our teams, and regular internal reports. I also like to send personal monthly reports to highlight the achievements of our employees who have exemplified our core values
What advice would you give to someone who’s about to start a leadership position?
It’s common for ambition to get the better of us, and we try to run before we can walk by expanding areas of the company quicker than we should. My advice would be to start by investing your time tightening the relationship with your new teams. Take a genuine interest in their work, and the work of the wider business. This will help to foster great working relationships and will give you access to unique perspectives within the business that you may not have been aware of previously.
What kinds of behaviours or traits should be avoided in leadership roles?
Generous and authentic leaders will always excel, so try to avoid selfish actions and using your authority just because you can. Leadership is working to change the status quo, so a trait of good leaders is sometimes acting as the dark horse, so the business or other people can thrive.
Pay attention to what you’re saying, because people will place greater significance on the words you choose, and may even repeat them back to others, so it’s definitely worth being more deliberate with what you’re saying.
A massive thank you to Zoe for her insightful responses. If you found her advice helpful, and you’re looking for further industry tips, be sure to check out some more of our related Business Basics guides and Q&As below:
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