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By Jerry Mooney

Running a small business, or attempting to manage any sort of team in a business context, can be a tricky challenge. One moment you’re reading the ultimate how to from to come up with new marketting strategies, the next you’re involved in a budget dispute. There are a lot of considerations to be made, ranging from how best to drive your team to meet their targets, manage the different egos and personalities involves, and how to stay sane in the process.

All too often business leaders can fall into the trap of losing the support of their staff through heavy-handed tactics and outbursts of temper. There’s much which is as virtually guaranteed to stifle the effective running of a team, than having those team members resent you for your role.

There are, however, certain principles which you can adhere to, which can make all the difference in creating a harmonious working environment and allowing you to manage your staff to the best of your ability.

Here are a few of those principles.

Be a leader not a boss

Every leader will have to order people around at some point or another, but it’s important to remember that there is a real and tangible difference between being a “boss” and being a “leader”, at least in the way that people will respond to you.

To put it simply, a boss is someone who stands detached from a situation and commands his worker bees to carry out his bidding. When they fail to do as instructed, or to achieve the results that had been hoped for, the boss will often rain fury and punishment upon those unfortunate worker bees.

A leader, on the other hand, is someone who is “down in the trenches” with his team. Of course, your role will be different from that of your team members, but as much as possible, it’s important to show them that you are engaged with the tasks they’re being set to undertake, and are pulling your weight.

A leader leads by example. He isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, and he doesn’t speak down to those under him. Instead, he adopts the mindset that he is working with them, not dominating them.

The shift may seem subtle at first, but it makes all the difference in staff morale and performance, not to mention your own sense of wellbeing.

Prioritize job security for your staff

In these uncertain times, many people have fly-by-night working arrangements, and this can lead to a great sense of insecurity and stress.

When someone doesn’t know if he’ll be in the same job this time next week, he’s naturally less committed to giving his all to the company and seeing it thrives due to his participation.

One of the best ways of boosting employee morale is by giving them a sense of job security. While this is easier said than done, it can include steps such as not over-recruiting, setting reasonable contract terms, and finding alternatives to mass redundancies if things don’t work out as planned.

Promote the free exchange of ideas in the office

Often, creativity in a business is stifled because people feel threatened or embarrassed to express their ideas openly. The more of a framework you can create for the relaxed, open discussion of ideas, the more creative your team will be, and the better they’ll feel about their role in the company.

Consider brainstorming meetings where no pressure is put on staff to have “good” ideas. Rather, simply encourage everyone to express any ideas openly, and then filter and build on them as a group until they become “good” ideas.

Communicate your instructions and ideas calmly

Team leaders and small business owners are often under a lot of stress. This can sometimes manifest itself in dismissive, aggressive, and rude behaviour towards your subordinates.

Allowing your temper to get the better of you is one of the easiest ways of losing authority and morale in the workplace. Even when you have to reprimand or penalise someone, do it in a calm and measured manner. You need to present the image of a cool, collected, and reasonable leader, regardless of how irritated you may be feeling inside.

Clamp down on office bullying and mean-spirited gossip

A toxic office environment may not be your fault directly, but it is your responsibility to put an end to it at the earliest possible opportunity.

If you become aware that some of your staff feel bullied, or unhappy, in the office due to a culture of backbiting, mean-spirited gossip, and office politics, you absolutely must investigate the issue and do your best to implement policies which will reduce the toxicity of the environment.

Team cohesion and cooperation will be terrible if everyone in the office resents each other and is constantly on guard.

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