Why Small Business Owners Should Read Self-Help Books

Small business owners wear a lot of hats: founder, CEO, sometimes office manager and janitor. So why do I advocate reading self-help books? There’s a few reasons but they all boil down to leadership — soft skills.

Firstly, I “self-help” has a negative connotation. I call it nonfiction, research, and personal development. Whatever way you look at it, if you have a small business, you have challenges that often lie on the outside of your primary skillset: the reason you built the business.

Soft skills are the social glue that brings together all aspects of any successful business. Click To Tweet

As a small business owner, you are a leader. Leaders create company culture that works for everyone. Leaders model psychological safety. Leaders understand their own limitations.

How can you possibly be a successful business without first understanding yourself and secondly understanding your team? We haven’t even stared talking about understanding your audience, customers, and potential market.

Leaders Model Company Culture

Company culture is created whether you intend to or not. Intentional company culture provides a path to success. Your small business depends upon you to create culture. It’s almost impossible to create it bottom-up. It comes from the top.

One of the aspects of a small business company culture that is important is vulnerability. Small businesses are a small team. Your team has to look up to you. As a culture, we view vulnerability as weakness. It’s not weak; it’s the opposite. True vulnerability is strength. That strength not only encourages your team to trust you, but it inspires them to try (and fail) as well.

The more vulnerable I have been, the more encouraged I have been to continue to do so — through business connections, mentorship opportunities, and the growth of my own empathy.

“The most transformative and resilient leaders that I’ve worked with over the course of my career have three things in common.

First, they recognize the central role that relationships and story play in culture and strategy, and they stay curious about their own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

Second, they understand and stay curious about how emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are connected in the people they lead, and how those factors affect relationships and perception.

And, third, they have the ability and willingness to lean in to discomfort and vulnerability.” Brené Brown, Rising Strong

True vulnerability is strength -- it encourages your team to trust you and inspires them to try (and fail) as part of the learning process. Click To Tweet

Leaders Create Psychological Safety

The vulnerability that you express creates a safe space. Small business owner, I ask you these questions:

  1. Do you feel safe to fail?
  2. Does your team?
  3. What are the implied or strict consequences of failure?
  4. How is that treated in your company culture?
  5. What kind of atmosphere exists in your stand up meetings or staff meetings?
  6. Do your employees come to you with ideas or concerns?

I can’t answer those questions for you. These are questions that require self-reflection and thought.  It may require observation over time and meetings with your management. Successful teams need to feel safe. If your team isn’t bonding, how can that be fixed?

“In Edmondson’s hospital studies, the teams with the highest levels of psychological safety were also the ones with leaders most likely to model listening and social sensitivity. They invited people to speak up. They talked about their own emotions. They didn’t interrupt other people. When someone was concerned or upset, they showed the group that it was okay to intervene. They tried to anticipate how people would react and then worked to accommodate those reactions. This is how teams encourage people to disagree while still being honest with one another and occasionally clashing. This is how psychological safety emerges: by giving everyone an equal voice and encouraging social sensitivity among teammates.” Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better

The best benefit you can offer your company's employees is the freedom to fail. Click To Tweet

Leaders Understand Their Own Limitations

There is nothing worse than a person who can’t see their own limitations. This is the moral to the story in the Emperor’s New Clothes. We delude ourselves with our own pride and often forget to look at the whole context.

This is another reason why leaders and small business owners should meet and mastermind with people outside of their own industry. Thought diversity is an important component of innovation. What can a manufacturer of tile learn from a computer programmer? How can a battery business learn from solar? The connections we make foster ideas. Confirmation bias is a danger and the first step to protecting yourself is to recognize its existence.

“A modern name for Smith’s insights about self-deception is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias happens when we filter reality through our biases, ignoring evidence that challenges or refutes what we believe and eagerly accepting evidence that confirms what we believe.” Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life

Do you dismiss alternative theories and ideas as negative or are you thankful for a differing view? Click To Tweet

What are you reading?

If leaders who understand their own limitations, create an intentional company culture with psychological safety, then understanding yourself, your team, and your customers will follow. And with that internal success, external (financial) success is bound to follow.

So, what are you reading? What inspires you?