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Lessons in Leadership From the Latest D.C. Debacle

Lessons in Leadership From the Latest D.C. Debacle

For startup founders, working with a cohesive team of productive individuals can help you tackle just about any mini or major crisis that comes across your path. But what happens when your staff doesn’t click or the tough tasks that you want your team to take down overcomes them instead?

Call it a failure of leadership. As I’m watching yet another breakdown on Capitol Hill -- this time, regarding the across-the-board spending cuts on the order of $85 billion that are set to kick in this week -- I’m again reminded of the import of strong leadership.

While it’s true that President Obama didn’t pick the current Congress and some representatives may have political motives for not compromising, I do wonder if more can be done. Do you, say, need to give to get? Or can withholding certain things like funds for key programs work?

It’s hard to judge what, if anything, would work for getting Congress to head off the cuts -- or if politics is such a different animal than business that it makes no sense comparing the two. But one thing’s for sure: You’ll want to avoid a similar impasse at your business. Here are three tips:

1. Communicate your plan. Your business is built on a foundation of your vision and ideals. Every decision you make should contribute to these in some way. Hopefully you’ve screened for and hired employees you feel contribute as well. But if you don’t share your plans and point out the direction in which you’d like to go, how can your team stay on track? Always communicate your objectives clearly. Always reveal your expectations and even your insecurities to your team. To work cohesively, you must be on the same page.

Related: How to Hire the Right Employees for Your Startup

2. Be flexible. Remember your time as an employee. Did you thrive when your boss was looking over your shoulder? Or were you more productive when your boss gave you a task or project and gave you some breathing room in which to complete it? Be specific about the endpoint of projects and assignments, but let your employees find their own paths. Be there to assist and offer solutions to make their job easier and increase their efficiency, but don’t force them to do things exactly the way that you do.

Related: 4 Ways to Manage the Perils of ‘Friend-ployees’

3. Offer honest feedback. You don’t need to do tacky things like offer up a complement sandwich. That is, complement your employee, offer them some constructive criticism and then top it off with another complement. Though it may seem helpful, it usually comes off as disingenuous.

Instead, be forthright with your employees. You’re their boss. They know it. You know it. There’s no need to pretend otherwise. Criticize their work when necessary, but make sure it’s constructive. Simply issuing negative statements won’t do any good for them or your company. At the same time, be sure to offer recognition for a job well done. This doesn’t need to be a financial reward. A genuine statement of thanks goes a long way in building a long-lasting employer-employee relationship.

Related: 3 Secrets of Happy Employees

How do you avoid management snafus at your startup? Let us know in the comments section.

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Adam Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Matthew, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Phoenix, Ariz.
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