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6 Simple Habits That Will Make You a Great Leader

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"Future-proofing" is a buzzword that's been repeatedly popping up on accountant channels this year, and it has many meanings. You need to make sure you've got the right tech, that you're taking the necessary steps to succession plan, and that you're meeting the changing needs of your clients. To accomplish all of these, you also need to be a great leader.

Aug 8th 2022
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We’re in the middle of 2022. Have you made the changes necessary to go from a good partner to a great partner? The year is half over, and it’s time to push yourself to be the best leader possible.

How?

I’m going to share some insights into how you can transition into the best you - a leader who does what’s best for your team, firm, clients, and themselves. To start, I recommend honing the following six habits:

1. Start Listening More and Talking Less

Your team wants you to listen, and it’s time to start. In fact, 39 percent of employees feel like they’re not appreciated at work. Listening can help you:

  • Pinpoint problem areas
  • Gain new insights into life at the firm
  • Ask good questions

Allow your workforce to talk to you openly, listen to their problems and ask questions. When you ask questions, you show you’re engaged and can dig deeper into problems that you can solve for the employee.

After your talk, be curious. Make notes and consider the following:

  • What did the employee say?
  • What can you do to fix any specific problems for the employee?
  • Were any deeper firm issues uncovered that need to be explored/addressed?

Re-engage with the employee the following day and ask follow-up questions. Show that you’re curious and interested in helping solve any problems they have.

2. Ask for Feedback

If you’re waiting for feedback that you never asked for, you may be disappointed when there's silence. Employees and clients want leaders to be interested and ask for their opinions. You can even create an open-door policy for employees or an anonymous feedback option to help your team get their voices heard.

Additionally, you want feedback from clients. You can send out surveys and questionnaires to clients to learn how your firm can better serve their needs.

3. Have Humility

Leaders and partners do not have all the answers. If you want to be a great leader, you need to have humility and realize that you don’t have the answer to every question or problem. 

For example, if there’s a new internal issue that is plaguing your team, don’t say, “Well, this process has always worked fine in the past.” Instead, hold a meeting,ask questions to get others’ perspectives on the problem, and ask for opinions on how to fix the issue.

Your workforce and team will respect you more for having humility and admitting that you don’t have all of the answers, as well as appreciate that you valued them enough to include them in the process.

4. Make the Best Decisions With the Information You Have

Let’s build on our last point (you don’t have the answers to all problems). It’s important to make the best decisions with the information you have. You need to be prepared to:

  • Adapt to changes impacting your plans
  • Navigate obstacles that are inevitable with all plans

It’s said that good leaders are right 90 percent of the time and great leaders are right 60 percent of the time. Why? Great leaders know the industry and make rapid-fire decisions that propel growth because they’re the ones leading the industry. The 90 percenters are the laggards.

If you want to be a great leader, you need to use available information to make timely informed decisions. Waiting too long to make decisions could cause you to miss out on key opportunities. Great leaders understand they don’t have to make perfect decisions all the time; they take calculated risks and course-correct as needed. 

Further, great leaders also focus on their people.

5. Focus on People and Treat Them Well

One survey found that just 10 percent of people are natural leaders. You may not be born with all of the qualities to be a great leader, but you can develop them over time. One quality that I find crucial is treating people well.

You have a responsibility to treat clients well. Communicate with them proactively, provide timely delivery of any work or services you provide, and build long-lasting business relationships together. The same goes for your staff. Provide staff with the tools, support, and training they need to succeed.

Additionally, you need to protect your team. Sometimes, it’s easy for leaders to get so caught up in growing their business that they take on bad clients and overwork their teams. If you focus on your employees, you’ll quickly identify bad clients and staff who may be overworked.

6. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Being a leader means facing everything from complaints and praise to good and bad clients. It’s far too easy to let a bad comment or issue with a client derail everything. You need to let the small stuff go. For example:

  • Don’t let one bad client interaction result in you second-guessing yourself or your decisions.
  • Raising prices often leads to one or two complaints. Don’t overreact to these responses.

As a partner, you'll find that there will always be people you can’t please - that’s just life.

If you focus on the points above, I’m confident that you’ll move into the title of a great leader that people love working with and respect. However, some of the changes you’ll need to make may be difficult and require you to look deep into your own motivations.

For example, are you making decisions that are in your own best interest instead of your team’s best interest? Perhaps you took on a new client, knowing they're not a great fit, because they’ll push your revenue goals forward. In this case, your motivation may be to impress other partners or to reach a revenue milestone.

Great leaders look at their own motivations when making decisions, solicit feedback from others, don’t sweat the small stuff, make great decisions, and have humility

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