You are bold enough to start your own business; you are creative enough to market it, and you are smart enough to keep its finances well-balanced – but are you social enough to be a good leader?
As the founder of your business, you function in a leadership role whether you like it or not. While you are juggling all sorts of responsibilities like marketing and finance, you also need to ensure you are devoting sufficient attention to your people to help them feel engaged and encourage productivity. However, if you aren’t a people-person – if you don’t naturally have a knack for developing relationships, motivating and inspiring others or even holding a pleasant conversation – you will likely struggle to be the leader your workforce needs.
Fortunately, like any other skill, sociability is something you can learn. Here are a few ways you and your other business leaders can become people-people and see your company thrive:
Empathize, Empathize, Empathize
Social situations become much less intimidating as soon as you recognize that other people have nearly identical experiences to you. Everyone is human – it is a cliché, but it is also true. Those around you have similar wants and fears to you: Nearly everyone wants to feel important and loved, and nearly everyone fears isolation and ridicule. The more you empathize with other people – meaning the more you can identify with how they think and feel – the more confident you will feel interacting with them.
A good way to improve your empathy skill is to practice. If you struggle to recognize other people’s perspectives in daily life, you might consider enrolling in structured CACREP-accredited online programs. A counseling degree will enhance your interpersonal communication skills and enlighten you about human behavior and psychology, so you will have a greater understanding – and greater empathy – in social situations.
Ditch Your Ego and Your Excuses
You might be the leader in your business, but in all other situations, you are equal to those around you. Thus, you shouldn’t let your authority in the office get to your head. An inflated ego will always stand between you and comfortable social interaction, so the sooner you recognize that you aren’t inherently better than anyone, the sooner you can build a positive social atmosphere.
Similarly, you shouldn’t let excuses prevent you from feeling at-ease around others. Excuses for social awkwardness run the gambit, from insecurities regarding appearance to complaints about lack of time. Being an effective leader requires you to interface with others competently, which means you need to set excuses aside and embrace becoming a people-person.
Learn to Forgive (but Maybe not Forget)
Nobody is perfect, but if you hold onto grudges for every slight done against you, you will never find meaningful connections with those around you. Forgiveness is a strength, not weakness, and it allows you and those around you to gain freedom from past behavior and feel comfortable in the present. Thus, you should learn to let most transgressions slide off, so you can move forward with your relationships.
However, as a business leader, you shouldn’t necessarily forget your subordinates’ mistakes. If one particular worker continues to act improperly, it is important that you address this issue for the good of the group. Additionally, you should recognize that some acts cannot be forgiven, and you should be prepared to dole appropriate punishments to wrongdoers.
Listen — Really Listen
Listening is typically toward the top of “Most Important Leadership Skills” lists. This is because few leaders truly listen to their employees; indeed, few people, in general, do more than wait for their turn to speak during conversations. By becoming an active listener, you set yourself apart from leaders who prefer to lecture. More importantly, listening gives you fuel for your part in a discussion; you can build off what others have said to produce meaningful interactions.
Be Healthier and Happier Within Yourself
Though an enormous ego is a hindrance in your ability to form relationships, you shouldn’t be cripplingly insecure, either. In fact, by devoting time and effort to building your confidence, you should find a balance within yourself that extends to how you communicate with others. You should try to focus on eating healthy foods with whole ingredients and obtaining a moderate amount of exercise during the week. You should also build up relationships with loved ones, including your family. If you feel secure within yourself and have a strong support system, your people-person skills will continue to improve.
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