People are complex, and managing them isn’t easy. Over the years I’ve spent running businesses and coaching business owners, I’ve seen that managing employees effectively is a constant challenge for the owners. And while there are often specific challenges that require specific solutions, I have come to believe that there are a number of general principles that make managers more effective in general. Below are four ways to become a stronger leader in your business:

  1. Focus on clear, accurate, and open communication with employees.  Nothing is more important than effective communication with your team. Make sure that they understand specifically what you expect from them. Make sure that you understand their concerns and address their questions. Make a daily effort to keep the channels of communication wide open. This alone can prevent a whole host of problems for your business.

  2. Lead by example. Nothing is more frustrating for an employee than a boss who won’t practice what he or she preaches. If you expect your employees to show up on time, you better be on time. If you want them to demonstrate great customer service, your customer service should be excellent. Not living up to your own expectations will quickly send the message to your employees that your instructions aren’t very important.

  3. Encourage innovation. Individuals do their best work when they are creatively engaged. Don’t turn your employees into machines or robots. Challenge them to use their brains and to develop creative solutions to problems. You may be surprised by their ingenuity… and you can count on them working harder and with more intelligence if they’re not afraid to think outside the box.

  4. Treat your employees like they really do matter. Most business owners like to say that “our people are our most valuable resource” … but much of the time, their actions and policies don’t reflect the sentiment. Make your employees feel valued and appreciated, and make your business a great place to work. Occasionally this may cost you some productivity in the short term—giving them days off to deal with personal matters, for instance, but the loyalty and dedication you’ll create will make it worthwhile.

There is no “one size fits all” guide to being an effective leader – but these four principles will help in most cases. Apply them today and you’ll see results.