4 SMART Traits That Every Business Leader Needs

By David S. Chang

Creating and growing a successful business takes a number of critical attributes. It is easy to assume that once you open up your business’ doors you will start making money immediately. However, that is far from the truth, running a business is not easy.

According to the Small Business Administration, a third of all new businesses fail during their first two years. The number jumps to 50% of all businesses failing in the first five years and rises to 66% after 10 years of operation. To avoid being one of those statistics, here are four SMART traits you need to beat the odds!

1. Be Humble

When it comes to running your own business, you may feel invincible and infallible. You may think your idea or way of doing things is the best. This attitude is the fastest way to failure. Being humble doesn’t mean that you think of yourself, but that you think of yourself less.

No leader can amount to much without the ability to admit when they are wrong. If you assume that leaders stick to their guns no matter what, you would be mistaken. Successful leaders understand when they are on the right track and when they aren’t.

Progress can’t be made without the right foundation, and great leaders must have the humility to turn back and start again when they have made a mistake. Being humble also means acting with integrity.

Learning how to conduct yourself with integrity is about making consistent decisions to operate above board. Before you make any commitments, ensure that you have the resources to fulfill them. Don’t make appointments or promises that you are not prepared to keep.

Self-awareness is key. You need to know your strengths and your limits. You need to seek input from others, admit your mistakes and take responsibility, understand your limitations, and champion the best ideas, not your ideas. This requires an attitude of humility.

Being humble doesn’t mean you are weak or meek, but it means you are sincere, genuine, respectful, and fair. True humility represents real strength.

Listening to the right people with the right expertise or leveraging the right technology will help you build a successful company. Like https://www.wopg.org/, you want to create a safe environment for people to speak up. You can’t build a great company without great people. The great people you want are the ones that also humble, smart, value teamwork and excellence, and take ownership.

You can’t build a great company without great people.

How do you find these great people? You can post job positions online, ask friends or family, or utilize hire technology that integrates interviewing, assessment, predictive analytics and AI technology to deliver a data-driven hiring experience.  

Don’t be afraid to join organizations and network with businesses similar to yours. Look for mentors that can help you. Their hindsight can be your foresight. To maximize your business’ reach, look to outsource key tasks so you can focus on your core elements.

2. SMART Delegating

As a business owner or manager, you need to work on your business, not in your business. This requires delegating tasks so you aren’t bogged down with the day-to-day whirlwind. According to a Xero survey, 77% of small business owners were burnt out.  

One of the best ways to avoid this is wisely delegating certain tasks so you can focus on only the tasks you can do. It isn’t about seniority and titles but about getting things done. If you feel as though only you can do all of the tasks, then you will end up being the bottleneck, preventing your business from reaching the next level. When you try to do many things well, you end up doing nothing well.

Remember, you are the most expensive employee, and the more you’re not working on directly growing the bottom line, the more you’re hurting the bottom line. Don’t be bogged down by the nitty-gritty, as the owner or manager, you need to be able to see your business from a strategic perspective.

Delegating doesn’t just mean giving tasks and micromanaging them. The key is to empower them. This brings about a productive workforce that will have a vested interest in achieving success. Your staff needs to feel motivated. A happy workforce is one that feels as though their skills and experience are appreciated.

If you are worried that others can’t perform to the standard you want, create an easy to implement system and process that is repeatable. Design step-by-step workflows that remove you from the process. Document the process with the who, what, why, when, where, and how.

The next step is to properly train your employees. Don’t think of this as wasting time, but think of it as investing time. Make it as easy as possible so any new person can pick up where others left off. Remember to continue improving your processes and get input from your employees. It is important for them to be heard and know that they are contributing.

3. SMART Personal Growth

Think of yourself as a product. To remain relevant, you need to constantly upgrade yourself. When the iPhone first came out, it significantly disrupted the mobile device market. However, companies such as Samsung, LG, Google, and others soon caught up. What kept Apple in the game is continually releasing better versions of its devices.

You may be on top of your game now, but it is only a matter of time when someone else will catch up or surpass you. Whether it be your products, services, or your own skills, it is important to find effective ways to continuously learn and grow.

The companies that succeed are the ones that are quick to listen to customers’ needs and focus on improving their products or services. This is the only way they can grow! Think of Blackberry, who at one point owned over 50% of the US and 20% of the global smartphone market. At its peak in 2011, it had sold over 50 million devices.

Out of the 432 million smartphone devices sold in the fourth quarter of 2016, only 208,000 were Blackberry devices, falling to 0.0% market share. Despite being one of the first smartphones, it failed to innovate and became complacent in how the smartphone market was changing.

Would you rather be Apple or Blackberry? While Apple devoted significant resources every year to upgrade, self-improvement doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of free online courses you can take, read or listen to audible books, or simply find mentors and learn from them.

For instance, investing both financially and in the form of time to earn a master’s in leadership can help professionals in any industry acquire the skills they need to grow as leaders. Earning such a degree takes dedication, though, especially if you undertake such an endeavor while working a full-time job.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that learning stops after you graduate from school. Continuously seeking knowledge should be a lifelong pursuit. Learning is a lifelong pursuit. This goes hand-in-hand with being humble. Always be willing and open to learning new things. That is the best way to add value to any organization and situation.

4. SMART Communication

A great deal of your success depends on your ability to think critically, creatively and to communicate your intentions and decisions to others. People see your actions, not your intent. This is why communicating is extremely important.

When does effective communication occur? When the receiver’s idea matches the sender’s intended idea. The ability to communicate clearly—to get your intent and ideas across so that others understand your message and act on it—is one of the primary qualities of leadership. As a leader, you must communicate clearly—both verbally and in written form.

Communicating critical information in a clear fashion is an important skill to reach a shared understanding of issues and solutions. Communication builds trust, cooperation, cohesion, and shared understanding. Here are some tips to help you communicate more effectively.

  • Focus your Message. It is your responsibility (the sender) to clarify or to focus your message so the receiver is absolutely certain on what he or she is supposed to do or know.
  • Breakthrough the Noise. Communicate clearly and eliminate possible barriers or distractions. Think in terms of the person you are talking to. Use their terms of reference. Ask for feedback to ensure the receiver is getting your intended message. If necessary, revise your message.
  • Put your Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF). What is the point of your message? The point is the bottom line of your message. Tell the receiver the point of your message within the first 10 seconds of you opening your mouth. Most audiences (receivers) are impatient. They want you to get to the point before they get distracted.
  • Use Simple Words. Great communicators use simple words. Save impressive, 50-cent words for your English papers. You need to be clear, complete, and concise when communicating ideas, intentions, and decisions to subordinates. Given the choice between a simple word and a long word—and given there’s no difference in the meaning of the two words—use the simple word.
  • Be Concise. Don’t use 10 words when 5 will do. Don’t be long-winded, it ends up becoming a distraction.
  • Use Concrete Words. Concrete words draw pictures in your receiver’s brain. For example “A good customer” vs “A 30-year-old female who is college-educated, lives in an urban area, and is a repeat customer who has brought many referrals.”
  • Listen Actively. Communication goes both ways, it is important that you are able to convey your message and be able to listen.

Having strong expertise or passion for your product or service is important. However, that alone will not be enough to make your business a success. These traits are critical to take your business to the next level.

David S. Chang

Award-Winning Entrepreneur, Wealth Manager and CEO | Chief Editor, Author, Keynote Speaker, Consultant ArtofThinkingSmart.com | Political Consultant | Army Officer National Guard | Living To Fulfill Needs, Solve Problems, and Live Passionately!


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