Be there. Entrepreneurs warn that a successful business can slip when an owner is not there at least part of every day, keeping in touch with how things are going.
Set an example for working hard. One wholesale bakery owner sometimes sleeps on the couch in his office so he can be there when the early shift comes in at 4 a.m.
Don't confuse "hands-on" managing with micro-management. Set objectives and offer guidance, but don't make employees do every little thing your way. Gauge what they do by the results.
Understand your business down to the last detail. The founder of a toy-store chain visits the stores and spends time doing each job (selling, clerking, etc.) and observing customers' reactions.
Stay in touch with "stakeholders"--including customers, employees and suppliers.
Take a time-out each day. Put a "Gone Thinking" sign on your door and don't let anyone disturb you.
Pursue hobbies and interests outside your business. They'll provide relaxation and may inspire creative ideas that you can feed back into the business.
Take a vacation or a sabbatical. (But first, make sure you leave the company in good hands!)
Spend time with your family. Kids provide a refreshing perspective.
Do something you've always wanted to do but never did--learn to build a house, or take a course in acting.
Communicate clearly and routinely. Lay out your company goals and principles in a mission statement and keep sharing your vision with your employees.
Involve employees in setting objectives. Give them feedback on how they are progressing toward meeting those targets.
Give your people authority, then hold them accountable. But don't go after them personally when things go wrong. Find out first if the process is at fault.
Be accountable yourself. Install an advisory board or executive team to help you make good strategic decisions and give you feedback on your own performance.
Be trustworthy and extend trust to your employees. That will help you earn their loyalty and strengthen your company.
Give employees their freedom. Communicate the goals and let them figure out how to reach those goals. They want control over their working lives.
Create an environment that encourages energy and spirit. That leads to happy customers.
Strive to help employees feel that when they have accomplished the business's goals, they have also accomplished their own personal goals.
Create a sense of meaningful purpose. Most workers want to feel they are engaged in something "larger than themselves."
Recognize that leadership means responsibility and stewardship. "Leadership is not rank, privileges, titles, or money," says management thinker Peter F. Drucker.
Show your employees that you think of innovation as an ongoing process. Some ideas will work and many won't. Keep experimenting.
Listen, listen, listen. Innovation is a collaborative process.
Be open to "accidents," the unexpected connections that spark new ideas. Inspiration comes from everywhere--often from outside your own field.
Draw on your own employees--they know the company's problems and goals best. This is probably one time you don't need outside consultants.
Be patient. Creativity can't be hurried.
If you've been running your business 10 years or more, it's probably time for fresh leadership. Consider bumping yourself up to chairman and getting a new CEO.
Recognize that fatigue and boredom are signs you've been at the helm too long.
Answer honestly: Are you resistant to new ideas and risks? It so, you may be impeding your company's progress.
Ask yourself if you are still growing and learning. If not, that's another sign of personal stagnation as a leader.
If you think you're becoming too set in your views, surround yourself with people who challenge your thinking.
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