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Six Steps to Leadership Success

Sunday 7th January 2018

Last month I was honoured to receive the Australian Accounting Award ‘Bookkeeper of the Year’. This on the back of my 2016 recognition as ‘International ProAdvisor of the Year’. As much as these awards are individual achievements, neither would be possible if I didn’t have a team behind me. In fact, I see these awards as a total recognition of my team. Without them, the growth I have been able to achieve both personally and as a firm, would not be possible. 

Just prior to the awards I was involved in the inaugural QuickBooks Connect event held in Sydney. A friend shared an interesting observation with me. She said that she had overheard some people comment, ‘That Diane, she seems to have come from nowhere’! My friend soon set them straight; that I am far from an overnight success! Isn’t it funny how success is measured by obvious achievement? I work under the philosophy that success is achieved by helping others to succeed.

Back to my team and my definition of success. Believe. Communicate. Fail. Learn. Praise. Grow. Six steps.

The vision I have for my business Direct Management is as clear as a window pane. Four years ago I started to work with a business consultant because I knew I couldn’t reach my goals alone. One of our first tasks was to document my goals – both personal and business. Four years on, and I can literally tick each one off as accomplished – my vision was that clear to me all those years ago. This absolute self-belief and conviction is my Why. My team believe it. We live it. They get it. They see me doing it each and every day. They hear me talk it at every opportunity. Believe. Communicate. The power is in the Why.

The flip side of success is failure. Or is it? Failure is inevitable. Failure is a must. Failure is a definition not the end. Without failure there cannot be learning.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t stand for that level of disappointment but in order for success to happen, there must be some level of tolerance for mistakes and error. My team know that to ask questions is not a weakness, it is a sign of strength. To know your weaknesses and to acknowledge your shortcomings are some of the first steps towards learning and embracing change. My role is to provide an environment that encourages growth. For growth to happen, there must be nurturing. A nurturing environment breeds collaboration. Collaboration breeds success. Believe. Communicate. Fail. Learn.

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” – Henry Ford 

This past week was another milestone week for Direct Management. Awards aside, it is the week that we grew our team yet again. Our new recruit starts in a couple of weeks. Was she the most qualified for the role? No. Was she the most experienced candidate? No. Do I think she will fit right in with the Direct Management culture? Yes, absolutely. The rest will come. She has the attitude and the backbone for what we need to continue our growth journey. With nurturing, team support and a collaborative environment, she will succeed. No doubt along the way, she will have failures. So long as they are within tolerance limits and they are a learning experience, then we are moving forward. Each step forward is a success. Sometimes I forget how important small steps are, or just simply don’t see them happening. Fortunately for me I have an incredible Office Manager who doesn’t let me forget. She reminds me to acknowledge those steps, prompting me to praise the achievements of my team members. Never underestimate the power of praise and acknowledgement. I have seen the incredible blossoming that can occur when you support a team member by appreciating their efforts. When you see in them what they have yet to realise and then you make them see it too, magic begins to unfold.

Each year at Direct Management we conduct a performance review. Part of that review is an assessment of performance and development against our career model. Each team member has an opportunity to strive towards a higher level of accomplishment, should they desire. Two years ago, a key team member indicated that she had achieved her desired level of progress. I couldn’t argue with that but I didn’t agree with her. Over the course of the next year, very gently I stretched her level of comfort. At our review last year, when we discussed responsibilities, she was astounded at how far on the career model she had progressed. Achieved with minimal discomfort. At that performance review she stated that she wanted to continue on that pathway – she was loving it! Her growth enables me to pursue my growth objectives. Her success is my success. Believe. Communicate. Fail. Learn. Praise. Grow.

So I run a bookkeeping firm. If I hadn’t stated what my award win was for at the beginning, would you have known that? Is what sort of business I run even relevant? I don’t think it is. What I do truly believe is what has enabled my success is a formula for each and every business.

“Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs

 This article first appeared in LinkedIn, June 20, 2017

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