By Chuck Violand

September 15, 2014

Country singer Dolly Parton is famous for commenting on how expensive it is to make her wigs look cheap. The same can be said for the difficulty in making complicated things look simple. This is especially true when it comes to addressing our own behaviors and leadership abilities—what some people refer to as the soft side of business. As anyone who has ever tried to improve in these areas can tell you, there’s nothing soft about it. It takes a lot of hard work and sustained focus.

Here are a few more suggestions on how to simplify things in your business.

Preparation and follow-through determine most successes. Learn to do both. Entrepreneurs are famous for their “ready, fire, aim” personalities. While there are advantages to this approach, especially in the early years of the business, doing our diligence to consider the long-range consequences of our actions can save us a lot of heart burn down the road.

Making a decision to act, with or without preparation, is just a first step. Following through on the decisions we’ve made will help ensure our success. Without adequate follow-through even the greatest ideas are doomed to failure.

Learn to apologize. It showcases your integrity. Owning your own business might make you feel like you can take a pass on apologizing to people for your mistakes, slights, and oversights. You can’t. Learning to say “I’m sorry” with grace is one of the greatest credibility gainers you have. Some people will tell you that saying you’re sorry is a show of weakness, but don’t believe it. Not only is apologizing a sign of strength, but it elevates you in the eyes of the people around you.

Keep your promises. Every relationship you’ll ever have in business or in life will either be built on trust or compromised by the lack of it. One of the surest ways to build trust is to keep your promises. If you told someone you would do something, do it. If you’re not sure you can do something, don’t promise you will. Promises don’t just involve big things like contracts or agreements. Many of them are small and seemingly insignificant, although still important. Phone calls, meetings, appointments, follow-ups, and returning emails are all promises and another trust builder. Leadership is about being authentic. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say demonstrate consistency, respect and a sense of caring about others, which leads to confidence and commitment.

Always play your cards “face up.” Always. At some point in your business career you’ll hear about business owners who don’t always play by the rules. They cook the books, bribe customers, don’t report cash payments, and bend the rules to the point of breaking them. The temptation for you to do the same in order to compete, or just to reward yourself, will feel overwhelming at times. Don’t give in. While this advice might sound incredibly conservative and old fashioned, it’s the right way to do business. Some business owners throw the words integrity, trust, and transparency around like cheap trinkets. But scratch the surface and you’ll see there’s nothing of value there. Don’t be one of them. Do the right thing if for no other reason than because your employees follow your lead. If you’re willing to bend the rules for your own convenience, don’t get upset when they do the same. They were just following their leader.