How to Develop Your Small Business Employees Into Leaders

October 3, 2016 Pete Jansons

As a small business owner, your attention undoubtedly will be pulled in numerous directions as your company continues to grow; therefore, having people on staff who can step up to assume greater responsibility can be a lifesaver. Now is the time to start developing a leadership mindset among your small business team members.

By encouraging and training your employees to think leaders, you’ll create a steady stream of individuals ready to move to the next step on the managerial ladder, which will save you training time and recruiting costs. And even for those whose career paths don’t venture that way, knowing how to problem solve, take initiative and think strategically will still make them more valuable workers. Here are some tips to help your small business employees think like leaders:

Emphasize connections

Because leaders interact with others frequently, they need strong interpersonal skills. Routinely providing opportunities for each worker to be in charge of a project will result in a staff of better communicators with a greater handle on group dynamics. Assigning seasoned employees to mentor new hires also can aid with leadership development.

But don’t focus solely on in-house opportunities. People who can initiate conversations with strangers and talk knowledgably about your small business enhance both their reputations and yours. Consider allowing an employee or two to shadow you at a new client meeting or an industry event to get a sense of those situations. They may become so proficient that you’ll feel comfortable allowing them to go in your place – opening up your time for other activities.

Promote development

Successful leaders keep learning new things. Paying for classes or training programs demonstrates that you want employees to stretch themselves and bring new ideas back to the workplace. Also, consider the value of cross-training. Not only do workers gain new skills, they develop a better understanding of how the whole business operates.

The best employee growth often occurs when you learn to step back. Instead of jumping in with a solution to every issue that arises, allow some time for people to think and evaluate. You’ll develop a team of confident, engaged problem solvers ready to take charge rather than simply follow.

Create a sense of ownership

As a small business owner, you feel vested in your company. You realize your actions can make or break progress and affect the bottom line. When your employees gain this same sense of accountability, exciting things can result.

Leaders have a voice, so listen to your employees’ thoughts if you expect them to act like one. Likewise, when a team member has a reasonable idea, let the budding entrepreneur try it out. Seeing projects through and showing the courage to step outside of one’s comfort zone are great training for future leadership roles.

To really develop interest in how the company fares, consider incentives such as profit sharing and stock options. Tangible rewards keep you inspired to lead the small business to new heights; a direct stake in the outcome can be the motivation your emerging leaders need to do the same.


Want more advice and resources for building your small business? Learn about the essential elements of a standout recruitment strategy


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