Three Skills Every Leader NeedsThe traits that make up a good leader vary depending on the organization, team, or work environment. If you want to thrive in a management position, it’s important to recognize the qualities good leaders share.

There was an interesting Inc. article by Peter Gasca about his experience working with a CEO who didn’t have any experience in his industry. He had reservations about how her background and management style could lead his business.

The “higher-ups” brought in someone from the outside to run the company he worked for at the time. She was a female CPA named Kathy. A CPA running a construction company wasn’t something he expected, however as time wore on she led the company to growth and they became one of the top home builders in their area.

“Kathy was able to lead our team and achieve this success by having a set of skills that trumped any specific skill needed to build a home or develop a piece of property,” says Gasca.

She did a few things to motivate her team, and these are things any leader can easily put into practice.

Engage with Your Employees and Surroundings

Leaders value their time as well as that of others. They have structure to meetings and add substance to discussions.

In Gasca’s case, Kathy knew how to manage people. She had weekly manager meetings, and maneuvered around difficult constructions issues through engagement with the managers.

“She knew everyone's strengths and weaknesses, and she allocated "us" accordingly. Maybe more important, she did everything in a manner that was personable and often humorous, but never disrespectful or derogatory,” Gasca adds.

Leaders need to be available for their employees. Although Kathy was at the top of the organization, she made it a priority to spend time with everyone in the company.

Encourage Your Team

Yes, vision is important, but you have to encourage the people around you to believe in that vision. Kathy encouraged Gasca to stay at the company, without any promises, when he was recruited. She shared where he stood with the company and encouraged his growth and development.

“The ultimate encouragement came when she promoted me to director of purchasing,” he adds.

Demand Accountability

When your team has deliverables or tasks due, hold them accountable, but know you are accountable for things as well.

For example, Gasca and his team would wait for a phone call or visit to their desk if they hadn't met a deadline. If it was around the time of a manager meeting, they knew they were in the hot seat and had to accept responsibility for their missed deadlines.

Kathy “had a way to instill fear for missed deadlines, which always motivated us to get things done. She also took a great deal of responsibility herself, and we never wanted to let her down,” he says.

Successful leaders not only build their business, they lead people. No matter what size your business, you need to be a leader to whom they’ll commit. Kathy served her team and put them first. When you do this, you’ll receive their loyalty and hard work.

Do you think these traits trump all others? What traits do you look for in a leader? 

Key Characteristics of an Effective Business StrategyA company’s strategy is the game plan business owners and management use to position their organization in its chosen market area, to compete successfully, satisfy customers, and achieve good business performance.

Business leaders have to pay attention to the developments in the world because they are intertwined with market forces that affect consumers and demand. They have to adapt their business strategy to a constantly shifting environment.

Changes in strategy should be done when it’s clear achieving a strategic goal is either impossible or no longer desirable, says Geoffrey James, columnist for

He offers some characteristics every strategy should include.

They are Not Tactical

People often get a strategy mixed up with a tactic. “Strategies define goals to be achieved while tactics define the actions you’ll take to achieve those goals,” says James.

For example, a strategy would be to double sales in a specific territory. A tactic would be to hire more salespeople in that territory to achieve their goal.

They are Measurable

If your goals are vague, you won’t know if you are achieving them. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” says James.

When you set goals, also set ways you will measure them to be certain they are successful.

Goals such as achieving thought leadership won’t translate to solid numbers. However if your goal is to double sales revenue in a specific region, you will have data to back up whether it was a success or a failure.

They are Actionable

Strategic goals are achievable through tactics. They are not dependent on forces you can’t control.

James says an actionable goal would be to double sales revenue versus increasing your publicly held stock price by 50 percent. Increasing your stock-price is contingent on the market.

They are Clear

Employees should understand exactly what their organization’s strategy is to achieve it successfully. A strategy requires continuous and clear communication. It should guide their decisions and actions.

They Include a Business Plan

“A strategy is just hot air unless there’s a tactical plan for achieving each strategic goal,” says James.

For example, if you want to increase sales by 50 percent in a specific region, your plan could include anything from investing in better lead generation methods to retraining employees to hiring new ones.

They Don’t Change Much

Strategies evolve as businesses evolve, but it’s important to know what does and doesn’t work. Once you know that, you can adjust your tactics and try new approaches.

A business strategy is an ongoing process, not something to set and forget. Strategic planning is key to looking to the future and creating direction to for a business to be successful. The key is to do what works best rather than trying to do everything.

What other characteristics do you think are critical in a business strategy?

Three Tips to Use Feedback to Your AdvantagePeople typically equate feedback to criticism, and as hard as it may be to hear, it’s important to know how others perceive you.

“It can be painful to receive criticism, and most people avoid it like the plague,” says Cy Wakeman, contributor to Forbes.

Feedback implies the participation of two parties. It’s a give and take where both people learn to grow. As the leader, you give feedback to your employees and work with them to help turn their weaknesses into strengths. But if you don’t think you need feedback, you are misguided.

Wakeman offers some tips on how to use feedback to your advantage.

You’re Not Always Right

Everyone has room for improvement, and leaders are no different. View feedback as data to understand, analyze, and allow you to make better decisions.

“Every bit of criticism is a gift, helping you see past your ego and make the changes you need to become more competent, more effective and more valuable,” says Wakeman.

It’s Not Personal

It shouldn’t be viewed as emotional, it’s just information. Wakeman says when you maintain your emotional distance, you’re able to extract the valuable information that helps you develop and grow. Once you find value in it, you’ll be on the lookout for useful nuggets of information. If you do take offense to it, simply say, “thank you” and walk away to give yourself a chance to analyze the feedback. Facts are often overshadowed by emotion, so pay attention to them.

Use Feedback to Change

Wakeman suggests leaders be proactive and ask their team for constructive criticism. A simple, “What is one thing I could do differently to improve my results?”

Take the feedback and make it happen. Set specific, measurable, and actionable goals to help you through the process. What really helps you change is when you involve other people. You have someone to answer to when you don’t achieve the goals you’ve set.

Effective leaders should be open to both positive and negative feedback. They can use it not only to improve their performance, but that of their companies as well.

Feedback is a part of life. It can be painful to receive it, but remember you can use it to your advantage.

What other tips would you add? Have you used feedback to your advantage?

conventional thinkingWhat do companies like Kodak, Sears, Sony, and Blockbuster have in common?

All of these once-monolithic businesses clung to status-quo thinking rather than seeking to constantly adapt, innovate, and improve.

In at least two cases, the reward for their conventional thinking was bankruptcy.

How does an organization escape the prison of conventional thinking?

“The first step is to consider the way you have always done business—and stop,” says Brian Klapper, a contributor to the Harvard Business Review Blog. “Failing to do so not only prevents truly innovative thinking: it also ensures failure.”

Klapper, president and founding partner of The Klapper Institute, offers tips for “killing the status quo” in your business strategy. (more…)

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