Leadership Traits: 5 Keys to Building a Strong Leadership Culture

Leadership Traits: 5 Keys to Building a Strong Leadership Culture

Hospitality is one of the hot topics in coworking right now, and one that will be covered at the 2019 GWA Conference. As the industry continues this emphasis on high-quality customer service and hospitality environments, it can be easy to lose sight of what hospitality toward your own team looks like.

In the most recent Coworking Council Series live webinar hosted by Jamie Russo, Executive Director of the GWA, Cassi Niekamp of Cultivate Advisors—which offers mentoring and other resources for small businesses—shared five basic principles for creating a culture of hospitality within your team. She explained that your space’s culture is an ecosystem. Making your team feel valued, empowered, and cared about facilitates their buy-in, retention, and shared vision toward creating a great environment for members and teams alike.

Russo noted that strong leadership of your team is an important part of building a scalable brand. “It’s such a critical component of success for building a team and building multiple locations,” she said.

As Niekamp explained, leadership means we “have a hospitality mindset towards our team.” Here are five ways to develop that mindset.

Building a Culture of Leadership

  1. Identify and share your vision.

You can’t just share your vision during the recruitment process, and you can’t just share it once or twice a year, either. A good leader brings day-to-day operations back to the vision as a regular part of interactions with the team. They provide a clear picture not just of where the company is in relation to the vision now, but also provide a picture of where the company is going in the next three, five, or ten years.

Niekamp explained that this connection to an on-going vision or story for the company can have huge effects on retention. An employee who feels unconnected to the vision is likely to take a bad day as a good reason to ask, “Is this company right for me?” However, an employee who understands and feels connected to the vision of the company can push through hard days because they’re tied to the over-arching goal, not a single day at work.

It’s also important not to just articulate your vision, but also to make sure employees feel they share in that vision. An important step here can be to get your team’s input on decisions that affect the vision of the company, and then make sure you’re connecting the things you ask them to do back to that vision you all helped create. Then, even if you have a team member who’s still learning the skills needed to do a task, you’ll have the buy-in and commitment that will help them learn and want to keep learning—at your company, with your vision, not somewhere else.

  1. Build toward exponential growth and use of time.

Good leadership isn’t about checklists. While you ask your team members to complete certain tasks, you need to clearly value what they bring to a company. For example, Niekamp pointed out that a major difference between a piece of machinery accomplishing tasks and a human doing it is that humans learn. They learn a task and build muscle memory, which allows them to learn to be more productive over time.

In working with team members, it’s important that you recognize and articulate that while certain tasks—especially in the earlier stages of a space or of an employee’s experience with your company—might seem tedious and time-consuming, your end goal is for them to be able to grow into higher efficiency, allowing the company to grow into the bigger vision you’ve articulated.

  1. Act and operate at the size you will be, not the size you are now.

This element hits one of the core questions in business development: Will it scale?

Regardless of where you’re at in terms of your business size and goals, it’s important that the vision you communicate to your team and the environment you set up reflects the size you want your company to be three, five, or ten years from now.

“What this essentially means is you are not making short term decisions,” Niekamp explained.

Your processes, attitudes, and team culture need to reflect where you want the business to be, not just where it is now.

“The way you act is not tied to financials…It’s more about how you scale operationally,” Niekamp said. Obviously, your budget isn’t the budget you’d hope to have five years from now—but the way your team interacts, communicates, and operates with each other and with members can reflect what you want it to be in five years. And if you want to create and retain a team that can get your business to that end goal, then you need to invest in them now.

  1. Document workflows and systems for your team.

“A business is not a business unless you have documented systems and workflows that can be replicated by someone outside yourself,” Niekamp explained.

She said that often in working with businesses as part of the Cultivate Advisors team, she’ll find out that small businesses have almost no documentation, which means that experienced team members and, mostly, the owner operate as repositories of all the institutional knowledge.

That model, Niekamp explained, is a recipe for disaster. Instead, she said that even small teams (including teams of one) should be documenting processes, recruitment, sales scripts, workflow, and other information needed to do each component of their job on a regular basis.

Niekamp asked the following questions:

  • Are you afraid of going on vacation, or losing a key team member?
  • Do you find yourself repeating how to do something more than three times in any given scenario?
  • Do you find yourself “stress training,” or trying to pass on everything you can think of to a new team member as part of onboarding?

If you answered yes, you’re probably not documenting enough of your process. Documentation allows team members to reference how to run operations in a way that alleviates stress and helps create a sustainable leadership model for training and developing team members.

  1. Only focus on solving two root issues at a time.

Part of team leadership is helping employees grow and develop, and that means facilitating change to problems in behavior or performance. However, Niekamp explained that it’s important to focus on one or two key issues to work on at a time—not a huge list of things. Just like you wouldn’t spread a $100 bet on a horse race out over ten different horses, so you shouldn’t be spreading out the chances of seeing meaningful change over ten different items on a checklist.

Choosing one or two things to ask a team member to work on tends to be a much more manageable goal, meaning that you’re more likely to see results. Niekamp also stressed, however, that it’s important to reward progress as well. Even if you don’t have the budget for large bonuses or raises, she said it’s critical to find ways to celebrate specific growth for your team members. Even something as simple as call-outs in meetings or happy hours to celebrate specific employee accomplishments can go a long way.

Know What Motivates Employees

As you’re working on your own leadership style, remember that good leadership isn’t about one-way communication. It’s important for you to have regular meetings with your team members. Ask them what their goals are for themselves, and how they think they can make progress. Ask them for their ideas. If there’s conflict between two employees, ask if you can help mediate it rather than letting it go. By getting feedback, you can better tailor your leadership style to the ever-changing needs of your employees and help ensure that they feel connected to the vision, sure of what’s expected of them, and excited about working with your company.

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The Coworking Council Series is a member-benefit for Global Workspace Association (GWA) members. To gain access to monthly live webinars with leading industry advisors, join the GWA

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