Leading with your heart and soul on the line

Takeaways from my experience as a servant leader

Hiring your first employee is an important milestone for your business. It’s liberating; with help right around the corner to cover the more tedious or thankless tasks, you’re free to refocus your scope on the big picture. Or at least this may be the thought process.

Reality hit? Still have all those things to do? When that first employee begins, remember: they have a leader who is there to lead by example. Oftentimes new leaders forget their role and assume that their new hire is there for the same reason that they are — and that may be the case — but we cannot assume that others are driven by the same things that drive us.

The best way to handle this is to go to battle together, to be a servant leader. Below are a couple of introductions to being a servant leader, not in any specific order.

Empower others to make decisions

This is scary, especially when you’ve made all decisions yourself to-date. It takes time to build real trust, so from the beginning you’re working from assumed trust. This doesn’t have to be the biggest decision, maybe something about a small deal with a client. If the choice is something that can’t be done, first understand why they made the commitment then take the time to work through what that decision would mean with them, with mostly facts. his helps get everyone on the same page with decision making.

Empowering employees is often times a way for people to feel valued, which is one of those things that most people talk about when they are engaged as an employee.

Create and share a compelling vision

This is the first time where everyone doesn’t understand why the venture has been started. Ensure that your vision applies to everybody you work with and everything you do, and reinforce it at every turn. This is important in more than one way. When leaders get busy or time has passed, the why can get lost. Write it down, share it out loud with a trusted few. Take feedback, edit it, write it down again and share again. Is there excitement when the vision is shared? That answer should always be yes, after all this is a challenging ride to start a new project.

Give and learn from feedback, then follow up

This is how growth happens, people learning together. Be open to feedback and don’t get defensive. Defensiveness causes uncertainty and fear that undermine your cause. You expect your employees to take your feedback, and you should be open to the same; you are the model. Your openness and vulnerability is critical to helping your team feel involved. Ask questions and learn. Keep this in mind when hiring; look for someone seeking to grow. And when you see something you don’t like, share feedback quickly and without emotion, and help finish the task the correct way together. When things are done the right way, reinforce the behavior confidently and with enthusiasm.

Really know your employees

This is one of the most important attributes of to being a leader. Many leaders use a resume, the words they say and actions that a person takes at work as knowing them. This is not even half of knowing the people who are in battle with a leader. After someone is hired, get to know the employee as a person. Take the time to know their story, their aspirations and their family. As a first employee or employee 15, it is important that a leader knows their people. Take the time here, people will often take risks that help a venture reach their goals if they are valued. This is a key thing for anyone beginning in leadership.

This first step of hiring the first employee does not need to be as terrifying as it might appear. Take some time to know the employee, give/receive feedback, empower employees and create a compelling mission and vision. These should be non-negotiable – remember the why the business began, why you made that first step and where the business is going. Find the why and write it down, this is where the focus will be in the next part of the series

If you’re looking for more on leadership, I recommend Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman’s The Extraordinary Leader. And check out the posts my fellow GoDaddy bloggers have written on the subject:

Image by: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Joe Louison
Joe is currently a Senior Manager at GoDaddy, where he works to ensure the folks customers speak with get the best experience possible. For over a decade he has believed in leading people and not managing them, especially when it comes to building top performers. Small business began in a family business for Joe who helped keep their homes and businesses cool, along with helping lead much more experienced technicians.