In my day-to-day work, we manage our small business team as we would manage an online community. It simply makes sense. Think about it. Great community managers need to be leaders and have strong empathy and relationship-building skills. In fact, there is a lot to learn from the art of community management.
Here are three lessons from community management, which can help any leader more successfully manage a small business team.
People relate to people, not brands. We’re often taught that we need to differentiate between a professional and public persona, but that advice doesn’t hold up. Managing a small business, I’ve found it’s better to be able to relate to team members as yourself. It is so important to have good working relationships with your co-workers and to let them in on your motivations and perspective. This will inspire the team to perform. Command and control is simply not a method that works well within small businesses. Successful teams are often close-knit groups.
Be transparent about wins and mistakes
Mistakes are learning opportunities. Remember that and be transparent. You don’t need to be faultless particularly in a small team where it is harder to hide mistakes. Own up to your mistakes, explain the situation and solutions or improvements you’ll make. Make amends if necessary and ask for more feedback on how you could do better. Feedback will only help you to improve yours and your small business’s performance.
Prioritise listening and be empathetic
Community managers need to have excellent listening skills, as do good leaders. You must be able to sense tone and intent and interpret if the intended message is unclear. It’s also important to understand the broader context of what’s being said and bear in mind with whom you’re speaking and in what environment. Great leaders adapt their communication style to make the people they work with feel at ease.
For this reason, I’ve found those with customer service and human services backgrounds make excellent small business leaders. They’re good communicators, especially when it comes to listening and then engaging. They reiterate the message back to co-workers to show they’re heard and understood. They “speakâ€ using the person’s own style and tone whilst maintaining a professional manner. They are authoritative yet relatable. In short, they are highly empathetic, which means they can neutralise anger; turn disconnected employees into active and engaged contributors; and create staff advocacy.
As Jessica Marie, a disruptive marketing thought leader says in a recent writing, “The door for empathy opens when we suspend our disbelief and openly engage with compassion. Relationship-focused success expands capacity and potential, and empathy is a business skill that grows when practiced.â€
These tips can help you, the small business leader, build authentic relationships with team members and stakeholders. With this approach, you’ll set a valuable example to the people you work with. Good leadership increases efficiency, productivity, engagement and retention, with the added bonus of reducing your workload to focus on the bigger picture.