Are you a manager or a leader? Three essential lessons from Inspire CA

A manager is someone who does exactly that — manages. They’re the people who give employees direction when they come to work every day. They answer questions, offer guidance and provide insights to help staff achieve goals.

A leader, on the other hand, is someone different. Someone who is inspirational, passionate, innovative and empathetic. A leader is someone that encourages their staff to challenge the status quo, come up with their own solutions, problem-solve and work towards their goals.

Ben Walker is someone who knows a thing or two about just how important leadership can be. As the director of Inspire CA, Ben founded the company himself in 2013 at the young age of 22. After many years of working within the boundaries of a traditional accounting firm, Ben began looking for newer and more innovative ways in which he could serve his clients. That was how Inspire CA was born. Because Ben’s instinct to do more than just manage was and will always be a powerful one. Something that cannot be contained or restricted.

As you move throughout your own career, it’s important to come up with a definitive answer to that very question: ‘Are you a manager or are you a leader?’ If you fall into the former category and want to do whatever it takes to move into the latter, there are a few essential things to keep in mind.

Defining one’s leadership style

The most important thing to understand is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to leadership. Different situations require different leadership styles, as a business is essentially a living, breathing whole that needs to be nurtured in its own unique ways. Remember that 46% of all startups fail due to general incompetence in leadership — meaning, people are trying to manage in a situation where something more is required.

There are a few different leadership styles for you to choose from depending on your needs:

• Facilitative leadership is a people-centric approach to leadership. It puts the work process and the company culture first, which is ideal for environments that are both creative and high-pressure.

• Laissez-faire leadership, on the other hand, is a more ‘hands-off’ style. It puts the members of a particular team in control of their own destiny, ideal for exceptional employees and teams that excel in self-motivation.

• Coaching leadership fosters a much more ‘give and take’ atmosphere. It puts a heavy emphasis on two-way communication, ideal for individual development long-term.

• Authoritative leadership is essentially the business version of a dictatorship. The leader is in complete control, which is great for undisciplined environments.

• Democratic leadership is all about the free exchange of ideas, perfect for a balanced working environment.

When learning how to lead Inspire CA, Ben Walker also had to learn how to think outside the box. He had to adapt his leadership style to implement new technologies to change the way the business communicated with its clients. During this process, he learned exactly how difficult leadership could be — particularly when you’re trying to control too many things. On the ‘leader vs manager’ scale, Ben started out a manager. The situation demanded that he became a leader, sooner rather than later.

Build that management team

It’s also important to understand that a leader is nothing without a strong management team by their side. In fact, according to one study, only about 2.5% of companies successfully complete 100% of their projects. The average cost overrun of all projects is about 27%. 57% of all projects that fail do so because of a substantial breakdown in communications.

What does this tell you? Simple — you could be the best leader in the world, but without the right management team at your side, you may well be finished before you ever had a chance to truly start.
Nobody can run a business single-handedly, which is why communication with your management team is so important. But this is about more than just making sure everyone is on the same page — it’s about the free exchange of ideas that lets everyone operate at their best at all times.

In those terms, The Executive Connection was instrumental in helping Ben Walker understand the importance of a team to assist the leader. Leaders may be the captains of their ships — but they’re not the ones down in the engine room stoking the fire. They not people whom they can trust to help make that happen.

All focus, all the time

When you’re starting (and eventually running) a small- to medium-sized business, every day is a new challenge. You invariably meet a lot of different obstacles that don’t just test your resolve — they also start forcing you to question whether you’re on the right path in life in the first place.

How common is this idea in terms of leadership? More common than you probably think. According to a study conducted by the Small Business Administration, about 1/3 of businesses that begin today will fail within the first two years. Of those that remain, another 50% will fail over the course of the next five. Not knowing what to focus on and when and why are major contributors to this.

Being a part of TEC helped Ben Walker not only learn how to become a better leader, but also underline the importance of focus. TEC helped Ben gain insight into not just that focus was important, but what he needed to be focusing on: namely, developing his business, his leadership skills, and his team.

Taking leadership to the next level

There is nothing wrong with being a manager. Managers are an essential part of any business. But to really take your own development to the next level — to become the best possible version of yourself you can be — you need to learn how to think, eat, sleep, and breathe like the leader you’ve always dreamed of becoming.

Leaders don’t just know how to adapt their own style to fit the needs of the situation. They know how to surround themselves with the best possible people and maintain the type of hyper vigilant focus that allows everyone to do better. They’re masters of the approach of putting the pieces in place to turn a business into the well-oiled machine it was meant to be.

If you’d like to find out more information about building leadership skills, or if you have any additional questions on related topics that you’d like to see answered, please don’t delay — contact TEC today.

A guide to company culture from 5 successful businesses

Developing a strong sense of company culture pays off. Employees who are happy are up to 12% more productive than average workers, able to outperform their peers and consistently improve an organisation’s revenue. A strong company culture means retaining your employees, spending less time training, and being able to procure the top talent. Here are some fantastic examples of companies that were able to create and maintain a strong foundation that truly resonated with their employees.

Find out more about a TEC membership and how it can help you make an impact on your company culture

 

Create an environment that you’d like to work in at Envato

 

Named one of BRW’s Best Places to Work in 2015 and JobAdvisor’s Coolest Tech Company in Australia in 2014, employees of Envato are the envy of many.

Envato’s founders had a single goal in mind when they developed their company culture: to create a business that they themselves would like to work in. After all, they knew that to get the best work out of them, employees had to have mutual respect for each other as individuals. Envato presently has around 260 employees, and their major marketplace, ThemeForest, is the 204th most visited website in the world. They have been able to achieve their sterling reputation and incredible growth through the allowance of flexible benefits — such as allowing their staff to work anywhere in the world for up to three months. They have also emphasised gender diversity internally. In 2015, Envato was named the Coolest Company for Women by JobAdvisor.

What does this all mean? Envato can get the pick of the litter when it comes to tech employees — especially female employees.


Be honest and blunt at
Atlassian

Values are the foundation of Atlassian’s company culture, which acknowledges the humanity and complexity of both their employees and their customers.

Atlassian’s blunt and honest company creed sets the stage for the rest of its edicts: build with heart and balance, play as a team, and be the change you seek. This direct, forthcoming company culture is what makes Atlassian a refreshing business for employees — and customers. Atlassian’s company culture includes twice-daily workout sessions, which are designed to bring the employees together and acknowledge that life is about more than just work product. But at its core, the company culture is about working together to deliver the best product possible and being proud of that work. This company culture supports the idea of mavericks and innovators while also emphasizing the need for teamwork.

By creating a blunt atmosphere, Atlassian is able to improve communication among its personnel. A focus towards delivering the best product at any cost removes focus from mundane, day-to-day conflicts and truly inspires their employees to innovate.

 

Turn work into a party at RedBalloon

When RedBalloon was first launched ten years ago, it was just a one-person startup; now it’s one of BRW’s “Great Places to Work.”

An online experience-based gift retailer, RedBalloon wants to bring its gifts and happiness to its employees as well. RedBalloon’s company culture concentrates primarily on developing an employee experience rather than using employees as company resources. The founder, Naomi Simson, wanted her employees to have a good time in their workplace, trusting that if they do, they will remain loyal and productive. The process of maintaining this company culture begins as early as interviewing. Quirky group interviews make sure that everyone who comes on board is part of the same healthy dynamic. The company culture is then reinforced through engaging, bonding activities, ranging from a comprehensive wellness program to optional charity hours. Through this, RedBalloon is able to maintain its work ethic without sacrificing productivity.

When employees want to work, they stay at their job. By creating this atmosphere, RedBalloon is able to reduce employee churn and the amount of time they spend during the hiring process and training.

Just be human at Vinomofo

With a tradition of calling its employees “mofos” and “mofettes,” Vinomofo has been a unique and innovative company from the start.

Today, Vinomofo sells 3.5 million bottles of wine annually, with approximately 100 employees. They’ve been able to achieve this steady and impressive growth by creating a company that is about more than just profit. Vinomofo has a wide variety of Mofo Causes, designed to give back to the community for everything from animal welfare to depression awareness. And every month, Vinomofo recognises people within the community who are doing good work. Like RedBalloon, a lot of attention is paid to new hires to ensure that they fit in with the existing company culture. A major creed at Vinomofo is to “be human” so that the distractions of the workplace don’t get in the way of recognising employees as people.

Vinomofo didn’t want to forget its employees’ humanity — and it paid off. By treating employees as people, companies can ensure that their employees truly give their work their all. This can be easily seen in the productivity Vinomofo is able to establish with just a hundred employees.

Don’t be evil with Google

Google has distilled company culture down to a science, becoming the topic of dozens of research papers and studies unto itself.

“Don’t be evil” has been Google’s motto for many years — and it’s one of the reasons this monolithic tech giant is often still considered to be one of the friendliest and most approachable businesses. Google has always been lauded for its relaxed atmosphere and company culture, which includes being able to bring in dogs, working on flex time, and devoting significant portions of one’s day to one’s own projects. Google has remained one of the “Best Companies to Work For” on Fortune 100’s list year after year, and in large part, this is due to its unique benefits, sterling reputation, and carefully crafted culture.

Google’s reputation has made it possible for it to truly select from the best-of-the-best tech employees — and that’s what has kept it on top.

Culture is impactful

Company culture is inherent to a company’s success. Not only does it improve revenue and productivity, it also ensures that any business you start is a business that you also want to continue working with. But developing a company culture certainly isn’t easy: it has to be motivated from the ground up, beginning with new hires and continuing on through the upper echelons of management.

At TEC, we’re focused on helping our members grow as leaders. If you’d like to find out more, contact us today to learn more about creating a company culture that will have employees clamouring for a position in your business.

 

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