CRAVE is a global community for female entrepreneurs that connects savvy business owners. Started 11 years ago in Seattle as a positive and supportive place to brainstorm and collaborate, CRAVE has grown to host events in 30 cities helping woman connect, inspire and succeed.
The Chicago chapter held an event last night at Shop 1021, a recently opened well-curated gift shop in Logan Square, focusing on leadership. The speakers explored the skills that make a great leader, how to motivate your team and gave tips for leaders in small entrepreneurial companies while fielding questions from the enthusiastic audience in a casual and informative presentation.
Here are a few of the skills they touched on:
Have a vision
Leadership is not about titles: a leader is someone who speaks up, provides a solution and gets the necessary people on board. Anyone can be a leader if they have a vision for the future and understand how to implement it. Because the changes a leader initiates don’t happen organically, a successful leader needs to be a good communicator. This means being responsive while having the ability to problem solve, achieve objectives, identify skills and bring people together. “The best leaders are ones who can figure out everything that is required to happen to achieve their objective. They can successfully bring together a group and move them forward until the task is complete,” said Sheila O’Grady, a consultant at Spencer Stuart. It is also important to be a good listener who is flexible and ready to adjust and bring new ideas to life.
Empower your employees
Communication is key when trying to empower those around you. Taking the time to explain things to your employees and let them know what they can do to be better is a huge motivator. “There has to be a certain degree of transparency to make you feel trust in the company. If you aren’t feeling like you are in the loop then you aren’t empowered to do your job as well as you can,” said Sarah Neukom, Producer of Positivity at Red Frog Events. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks—this trust leads to empowerment. “When you let someone embrace an idea and run with it they are only going to keep producing more great things,” said Neukom.
Create an efficient, motivating environment
It’s important to foster an environment where people have a desire to innovate. This means forgetting about office hierarchy, using tech applications efficiently to free up time and knowing when to say “no.” At Red Frog Events all employees are given a trail period. This time “is equally as important for the employer as it is for the employee. It gives employees time to make sure it’s a good fit while letting them embrace the culture and find their niche,” said Neukom. When working in government, O’Grady said that having pride in the work that you were doing and possessing the desire to do it better, or be first, were the biggest motivators. She says that creating an environment where people are always striving to be number one is key. Also, never undervalue appreciation: simply saying “thank you” can be the best motivation. Attention to small details like thank you notes or employee perks help keep people inspired, creative and motivated to foster ideas.
Good leaders make a point to be accessible to their employees, showing respect, being genuine, having good intentions and creating a sincere connection. This doesn’t mean you have to be an extrovert: leaders who are quiet and able to listen are sometimes the best of the bunch. “Joe, the founder of Red Frog, is this silent kind of stoic leader but his mind is always turning,” said Neukum. These quiet leaders should still be good communicators. O’Grady stresses the importance of making the job duties extremely clear when hiring to avoid worker unhappiness. She also suggests interacting and reaching out to both employees and clients: a simple ‘this made me think of you’ with a personalized link goes a long way.
You don’t need followers to be a leader
“A leader is a person who grabs the reigns and is in control,” said O’Grady. For entrepreneurs or small business owners becoming a leader is as simple as viewing yourself as one. This means saying you are in charge, this is my business and realizing you are doing something impactful. “Make your decisions like the business person that you are and think about the impact you are having on others,” said O’Grady. Leadership is not just based on the number of employees you have: even if there is no one working under you, you are a leader in your community and in Chicago.