How To Lead A Team As A Woman Entrepreneur
Women are changing the world by starting small businesses in record numbers. The impact is being felt across America and around the world as the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) study of 59 economies demonstrates.
However, one of the issues I hear often as a business coach from my clients is, "How can I be taken more seriously by my employees?" or "How can I show my staff that I am the boss without making them feel that I think I am better than they are?"
There may be no "I" in team, but in every business there is a leader and that leader's responsibility is to make sure the group works successfully as a team to get the job done. In a small business, it is natural for the leader to also be a member of the team. So, why do women find this to be harder to navigate than men?
Interestly enough, women's businesses tend to have proportionally more women employees than do their male counterparts. Of course, this is due to the fact that it is natural to select people like us to work with us. So could it be that women find it more difficult to lead a team of women than of men? In my experience, this is very often the dilemma women entrepreneurs struggle with.
So often women entrepreneurs start a business by discussing it with friends and/or colleagues long before they are ready to launch it. Finally, when the time comes to birth the business one or more of these friends and/or colleagues are asked to join the team. Is this your story?
The business is launched and everyone knows exactly what their roles and responsiblities are in order for the business to be successful. The business succeeds because the team is a success. The startup phase of most small businesses is not as complicated as many think since there is a plan in place to be followed.
The challenge occurs when the direction of the business needs to be altered. When the role of the entrepreneur as visionary must take precedent over her role as team player. She must use her leadership qualities which attracted her followers in the first place and communicate, motivate, and inspire the rest of the team to change course, if necessary.
I have witnessed how difficult this is for some women entrepreneurs who shy away from their responsibility as leader in the company. Some have grown up nurtured to believe that groups can lead. They have participated in community organizations where everybody seems to just pitch in and the job gets done. But a small business is NOT a community organization. Businesses require leadership if they are going to succeed. It is your job to lead the team and to become comfortable in doing it.
Where to start:
(1) Leaders choose to lead. They step up on day one and let the team know that they can be depended on not only to do their part but to make sure that everyone on the team has what they need to be successful at their part as well.
(2) Leaders communicate vision. It is your small business so you have to know where you plan to go with it. Not just today, but tomorrow, next week, next month and at least for the next year. In order for people to follow you, they must feel secure in their position in the company. They must be made to feel important and appreciated for the talents they bring. They must have confidence in your ability to lead as well as your ability to see the future and be able to react to it.
(3) Leaders share their passion and commitment to operating a business with high moral values. They set an example for working hard and being willing to do whatever they ask from others if necessary. They are role models as well as team players.
(4) Leaders, in a small business, are often the first in and last out each day. They understand what each person on the team is responsible for, and are ready, willing, and able to help each person grow both personally and professionally while involved in the business. They act with compassion and understanding that each member of the team participates in the company because they believe in its success.
You can be part of the team and the team leader all at the same time. It means standing up from the start and being clear on who makes and how decisions are made. It requires you to listen to others and respect their opinions while being transparent about how the final outcome will be determined.
Finally, a leader doesn't make excuses or blame others. A leader, and particularly a woman leader, brings a group of committed people together and motivates them to be the best that they can be. By doing so the TEAM and you will succeed. Can you do this? Will you do this?