Developing stronger leadership skills is an important act for virtually everyone in business. But becoming a better leader doesn't always require attending a pricey seminar. Sometimes, simple acts can have an immediate impact, says self-proclaimed "leadership freak" Dan Rockwell, a leadership coach and author of the Leadership Freak blog.
Here are four tips to help you be a better leader today:
Spend at least 15 minutes listening. Every day, spend at least 15 minutes with someone who has something to say about a challenge or opportunity your business is facing. It might be an employee or a contractor. But, the key is broach the subject and listen to the response without judgment. Rockwell says leaders often talk too much and don't truly listen to the people around them, who often have valuable insights. Listen to each person with the same level of attention and open mind as you would listen to a consultant or outside expert. You don't always have to follow the advice, but this exercise can help you get out of the same-old patterns of thinking.
"Becoming a better leader is often about letting other people in to have a better understanding of how to move forward," says Rockwell. "The more you need to say, the more you need to listen," he adds.
Related: Turn Around Your Business in 5 Steps
Say, "Tell me more." Instead of asking a barrage of questions, which can be intimidating to others and make them less forthcoming, Rockwell advises using the phrase, "Tell me more." This objective statement lets your discussion counterpart continue in his or her line of thinking without feeling interrogated.
Allow some doubt. Entrepreneurs are often successful because of their belief in their vision and ideals. Rockwell acknowledges how important that is, but advises them to periodically ask, "What if I'm wrong?" That's not to say you should become doubt-filled or ineffective. This is another exercise that helps you think in new ways and perhaps find opportunities that wouldn't be apparent if you simply charged ahead in one direction. Question yourself about the markets you serve - what if you're wrong that a particular segment wouldn't want your product or service? What if you're wrong about embracing new technology? What would the possibilities be if you took a different approach?
Go to lunch. Or, grab some coffee, dinner or breakfast at least once a week with someone you admire. You become like the people with whom you spend time - so get some good ones in the mix, Rockwell says. Even when it feels like you don't have time, you can always make time to have coffee or even a phone conversation with someone who has traits or experience from which you can learn. Whether it's a mentor, a colleague who always offers great insight, or someone who just seems to have it all figured out, the more time you spend with people you admire, the more they can inspire you, he says.