Riding the success bus: Transforming your small business leadership

Business owner steering their business to success

As business owners, have you ever felt like you’re on a wild bus ride, racing down a winding road, barely keeping control? You're not alone. According to a report from the DDI, only 40% of leaders feel they're effectively leading their teams [1]. The good news? You can take the wheel and chart a clear, controlled path to your destination. Let's unpack this journey together.

Welcome to Momentum Business Insights, where we share our 21+ years of experience as business coaches helping small business owners thrive. Our guidance is your roadmap, our expertise your compass. So, fasten your seat belts and get ready to take control of your entrepreneurial journey!

Let’s set the scene

Our unique coaching model uses an analogy that everyone can relate to a bus on a journey. Picture your business as this bus, embarking on an exciting expedition towards the horizon of success. This destination represents profitability, growth, and personal fulfillment. Now, imagine yourself as the bus driver, holding the wheel steady, navigating obstacles, and ensuring a smooth ride for everyone aboard.

Today, we're focusing on you, the indispensable driver, and the critical steps you'll need to take to lead your bus—your business—to its destination safely and effectively. On your journey you will be inspired by lessons we've gleaned from globally renowned business leaders.

Breaking Free from Leadership Misconceptions

From our years of coaching small business owners, we’ve noticed several misconceptions that persist about leadership. Many believe that leadership is all about charisma, confidence, or even being a “born leader.” But remember that leadership is not an inborn trait. It's a set of skills that you can learn, cultivate, and improve over time.

Another common misconception is that a small business owner's role is solely about product development, sales, or customer service. While these are critical aspects of your business, your role extends far beyond. As the leader, your key responsibility is to guide your business - your bus - towards its destination, navigating the twists and turns of the business landscape.

It’s time to challenge the status quo. As the renowned leadership expert, John C. Maxwell once said, "A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." Are you ready to become that leader? How can you effectively steer your business towards success, transforming chaos into control? Stay tuned as we share insights garnered from the front lines of business coaching.

1. Be the Driver: Embrace Your Leadership Identity

"As business coaches, we can't stress enough the importance of taking control of your business - of being the driver. Just like how a bus can't run without a driver, a business can't succeed without a leader who steers it towards its destination.

It's about owning your leadership identity, believing in your abilities, and knowing that you have what it takes to guide your business to success. Consider the story of Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. With just $5,000, a brilliant idea, and immense determination, she transformed a one-woman show into a multi-million-dollar enterprise. Sara once said, 'Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.' Her leadership identity, brimming with confidence and tenacity, has been a driving force in her success. As small business owners, you too can cultivate a similar identity, leading with confidence and courage.

Here's how you can start:

  • Define your leadership values and principles: What are the core values you want to uphold as you drive your business?
  • Cultivate confidence: Believe in your abilities to lead your business. Each challenge you overcome is a stepping stone to becoming a more resilient leader.
  • Lead by example: Exhibit the qualities you want your team to embody. Your actions can inspire others, setting a positive tone for your business culture.

2. Grab the Keys: Taking Ownership of Your Business Journey

Being a leader is not just about steering the bus, but also about owning the journey - the successes, the failures, and everything in between. It's about taking responsibility for your business's outcomes and recognizing that your decisions shape its trajectory.

Take a leaf out of Paul Cave’s book. The founder of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, Cave fought relentlessly against numerous legal and safety hurdles for a decade to make his vision a reality. He once said, 'You have to take ownership, you have to have a passion, you have to be persistent.' His story teaches us the power of persistence and ownership in leading a business towards its vision.

Here are some steps you can take to grab the keys:

  • Embrace accountability: Recognize that as the leader, you're accountable for your business's results. This sense of responsibility can spur you to make better decisions.
  • Learn from mistakes: View every misstep as a learning opportunity. When things go wrong, identify the root causes, rectify them, and work to prevent them in the future.
  • Celebrate victories: Celebrate your wins, no matter how small. These milestones are a testament to your leadership and the hard work of your team.

Remember, leadership is not about perfection, but about owning up to mistakes and continuously striving to better your business journey. Grab the keys to your business, and be ready to steer it towards success.

3. Looking Through a Clear Windscreen: Vision is Your Roadmap

As we often say in our coaching sessions, clear vision is the roadmap guiding your entrepreneurial journey. A well-defined, compelling vision provides direction, fuels motivation, and sets the stage for strategic planning. Imagine trying to drive a bus through a foggy windscreen - challenging, right? The same applies to leading a business without a clear vision.

Consider the visionary genius, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX. He didn't just set out to create successful companies; he envisioned transforming the future of transportation and aiming for space colonization. Musk once said, "When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour." His clear and ambitious vision has been instrumental in the stellar success of his ventures.

How can you create a clear vision for your business?

  • Identify your 'why': What drives you? Why does your business exist, and what impact do you want it to have?
  • Set measurable goals: Make your vision tangible and trackable by setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals.
  • Communicate your vision: Ensure that your team understands and aligns with your vision. It should guide all strategic decisions and actions.

4. Who's on Your Bus: Building a High-Performance Team

Just as you can't drive a bus without passengers, you can't drive a business without a team. Having the right people on your bus, sitting in the right seats, is critical for your journey towards success. It's about building a team that shares your vision, values, and culture - a team that is as committed to the journey as you are.

We can’t emphasise enough how important this component of your bus is. A study from Gallup reveals that an astonishing 79% of employees quit their jobs due to a lack of appreciation from their leaders [2]. The lack of recognition leaves employees feeling disconnected and undervalued, leading to low motivation, performance, and eventually, their exit.

Look at Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines. He recognized that his employees were the heartbeat of his organization. Kelleher once stated, "Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that." This people-first approach fueled the exceptional success of Southwest Airlines.

To build your high-performing team, you can:

  • Hire for cultural fit: Skills can be taught, but attitude and values are inherent. Hire people who align with your business culture and values.
  • Develop your team: Invest in training and development to enhance your team's skills and productivity.
  • Appreciate and reward: Acknowledge the efforts of your team. Recognition and rewards can boost morale, motivation, and productivity.

Remember, having the right people in your bus, who share your vision and embody your values, can make the journey towards success enjoyable and fruitful.

5. The Great PA System: Mastering the Art of Communication

Communication in leadership is much like a bus's PA system. It ensures that everyone, from the front to the back, knows the journey's route, status, and any potential hiccups along the way. As business coaches, we've observed that effective communication can enhance team collaboration, improve decision-making, and foster a culture of transparency and trust.

Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, is a perfect embodiment of great communication in leadership. Known for his charismatic and approachable style, Branson often underlines the importance of listening in communication, stating, "Listening enables us to learn from each other, from the marketplace, and from the mistake that must be made in order to get anywhere that is original and disruptive." His open and engaging communication style has been a cornerstone of Virgin's innovative and people-centric culture.

To improve your communication as a leader:

  • Be transparent: Share your business's goals, challenges, and successes openly with your team. Transparency builds trust and encourages open dialogue.
  • Listen actively: Good communication is not just about speaking but also about listening. Understand the perspectives and ideas of your team.
  • Encourage feedback: Foster a culture where feedback is welcomed and valued. It’s a two-way street that can lead to significant improvements in processes and relationships.

The Power of a High-Performance Team

Leadership is about more than just guiding a team—it’s about building a high-performance one. As a leader, your primary job is to build a team that performs at its peak, aligning with your business's vision and goals.

Leadership may seem like a complex and challenging role but remember: it's about steering your bus (business) towards its destination (goals) with your team (employees). It’s about creating a journey that not only leads to business success but also ensures an enjoyable and enriching ride for everyone on board.

A strong leader sets the tone for the company culture, shapes the company's strategy, and determines the level of employee engagement and performance. They inspire, motivate, and foster a positive work environment that encourages growth, innovation, and teamwork. It’s a role that comes with significant responsibility but also immense satisfaction and achievement.

The reality is, there are many leaders within a business, but ultimately, it is the owner who is accountable for the results of the business. They are the “bus driver” who is steering the bus, providing direction, making key decisions, and leading by example. Be that leader. Drive your bus towards the destination of success.

Conclusion: Navigating Your Way to Success

Leadership is crucial for your business's success and your team's wellbeing. In fact, a study found that Sixty-five percent to 75% of employees stated the most stressful and worst aspect of their job was their immediate boss or leader [3].

Being a small business owner requires more than just expertise in your field—it demands effective leadership. Remember, your business is a bus on a journey, and as the driver, you are responsible for the direction it takes, the team it carries, and the destination it reaches. By incorporating the five elements of our Momentum leadership model into your leadership strategy, you can steer your business from chaos to control, achieving success, profitability, and personal satisfaction.

If you are ready to embark on this leadership journey and want to learn more, we invite you to book a Clarity Call. Let's together build a roadmap to your business success.

Remember, Momentum Business Improvement is here to support you every step of the way. Let’s embark on this journey together, improving businesses and changing lives.

Momentum: Improve your business…change your life!


Source [1] Source: DDI's Global Leadership Forecast 2018

Source [2]  Gallup, "Employee Burnout, Part 1: The 5 Main Causes," 2016

Source [3] Sage Journals, Ineffective-Leader-Induced Occupational Stress


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