Great leaders know they are only as successful as their team, so they understand that investing in staff is vital for quality work and top-notch client care. Not only are happy employees more engaged in the work, but they also tend to stick around longer.
So if you’re struggling with team retention or the worker shortage makes you uneasy, it’s worth putting your time and money into fostering an environment that turns average employees into dedicated brand ambassadors.
While we often refer to notable figures as “born leaders,” leadership is not an innate quality—it’s a skill. So rest assured that you can still be an excellent leader in your business even if you weren’t class president!
Here are best practices for new and developing leaders to start investing in the future of their team—and their business—today.
Set realistic expectations.
Nobody likes to feel confused while working, so don’t leave your employees to figure everything out on their own! Be clear about their roles and responsibilities, opening up a two-way conversation that ensures everyone is on the same page.
“Don’t set unreasonable goals,” stresses Frank Guertler of Bunn DJ Company—Richmond, VA. “Instead, make your employees part of the goal-setting process. What you may think is reasonable in theory may not be in reality.”
Monika Kreinberg of Furever Us agrees, noting, “Everyone has their strengths, so don't give them tasks you know they will not do well or cannot do. You will set them and, in turn, yourself up for failure. A leader's job is to lead and motivate employees to do their best. Use positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement. Otherwise, your employees will just quit.”
As expectations evolve, keep communication lines open so your employees stay up-to-date with internal changes.
Provide adequate training.
Alongside clear expectations, sufficient training is critical for employee satisfaction and consistent, high-quality client work. “As Henry Ford once said, 'The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay,’” Kreinberg adds.
The Restart Specialist's Meredith Ryncarz elaborates, asserting that a lack of training impacts companies from the top down. “One major leadership 'don’t' when it comes to running a business is not training your employees or having a set of standard operating procedures for them to follow,” she says. “When employees don’t know what to expect or what is expected of them, it can lead to bad work culture.”
In many cases, a lack of training also leads to increased micromanaging, which Nora Sheils of Rock Paper Coin and Bridal Bliss cautions leaders to avoid. “Never, ever micromanage,” she states. “Set your employees up for success by training well, giving them the tools they need to be successful, making sure they know you or a manager is available for any needs that arise, and then let them crush it on their own!”
Simply put, training helps to guarantee that your clients and team members are happy!
Support team members on an individual level.
Job satisfaction doesn’t come in one-size-fits-all, so you need to personalize your leadership approach with each employee. Betsy Scott of Hudson Valley Weddings at The Hill suggests opting for an "Individual Development Plan" that lets you support team members on a one-on-one level.
“Sit down with each employee and discuss where they are with their career, where they want to be, and what are good ways to get there,” Scott says. “Spend time with each employee to better understand the responsibilities and challenges of their job.”
Not only will your staff appreciate your respect for their contributions, but you will also learn more about their motivations and needs in the workplace.
Invest in their career development.
Hiring a new employee is a commitment, so you must be prepared to supply the tools they need to grow in their role.
“Continuing education is essential,” affirms Peter Mitsaelides of Brooklake Country Club & Events. “Schedule time for in-house sales and customer service webinars and workshops on the latest event trends.”
Sheils agrees, adding that “employees will always be more valuable the more they are educated in the industry. Education can come in many forms, from online summits to working with a mentor to in-person conferences. Some of the most important things to come out of these aren't always the knowledge. It's the relationships!”
Whether it’s training certifications, networking opportunities, or educational resources, investing in your team’s professional growth demonstrates that you value their potential while providing an opportunity for improved client service.
Engage with their personal interests.
Professional development is only one side of the coin, though. Outstanding leaders also develop personal relationships with their employees, supporting their hobbies and projects outside of the office.
“Their personal development is as important as their professional development,” assures Shannon Tarrant of Wedding Venue Map. “Learning what your staff is into outside work and being supportive makes a huge difference. For example, one of my team members is an artist who sells her paintings online and at art shows. I send her info about upcoming art shows I see, share her work on my social media and refer people her way.”
With that said, Juls Sharpley of Bubbles & Bowties advises against leaning too far into it. “Don't blur the lines between friendship and a working relationship with a hierarchy,” she warns. “While we would all love to have a friendly and fun working environment, you still need to have a strong hierarchy and strong lines/boundaries in place with your employees.”
Try to find a balance between celebrating your employees’ personal interests and maintaining a supervisory relationship in the workplace.
Show your appreciation regularly.
Your team members put a lot of time and effort into growing your business, so make sure they know you’re grateful for them. While you don’t need to start an “employee of the month” club (unless you’d like!), there are many ways to thank your team!
“Look for opportunities to show you care, such as extra personal days or little gifts like a box of favorite energy bars,” Guertler suggests.
Sharpley reveals her gestures of gratitude, sharing, “I treat employees to spa days when I know they are burned out or recommend they take a day off here or there to hit the reset button. Being a small business, we aren't set up to offer major benefits, so I like to find little ways of showing them that they are an integral and important part of what we do!”
An efficient and engaged team is a business’s most valuable asset—so if you notice your employees are underperforming or your operations need a tune-up, consider how you can invest in the personnel and resources you already have in place.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.