My buddy Mark is quite a guy. Very down to earth, enjoys the simple things, and last year he began the process of purchasing the company he works for from his boss who is setting up to retire. Super impressed (and a little jealous :shrug:) I have been intently asking him how the transition is going each time I see him.
Yesterday we are chatting and he tells me about the shift in his perspective that is happening. So picture this, he used to call his boss for advice if he had an issue in the field and would end up get a little irked because he perceived his boss as being distant. It was almost like his boss didn’t know what it was like to do the actual work anymore because he is in the back office all day. I’m sure that feels familiar to some of you reading. But now, Mark is feeling that burden of information– like when one of the employees calls him for help his mind is so focused on all the 99.9% other things going on in the business and filling up his brain, that he feels irked now that the employee can’t just figure it out for themselves. So how do you walk that fine line of frustration, friendliness, and being seen as Boss?
As with most things, a few general guidelines can help tremendously for someone struggling with “being boss”
Today I’m going to focus on Step 1.
1. Communicate Transparently
This comes naturally to some, but feels like a nuisance to others. Here’s the thing though– when you share information with your employees, they will do the same for you, often in tenfold. Most business owners have a very full plate which means that at any given time they could be working on multiple projects to either keep the momentum going or to grow. We separate those projects from the daily work even though one does affect the other. Often times, an employee has little to no idea what is going on in the background of a business. The problem then is this leads to presumptions, biases, judgments without any basis, and then creates that awkward divide between employer and employee.
To begin communicating transparently, start with an intentional small step. That could be something as simple as an email like this:
To: Office, Sales
I just finished a bid for a 5th project this week! We haven’t done 5 bids in a week since January. Fingers crossed that we get these in the bag!
That took less than 30 seconds and was not any new content the boss had to come up with or craft to send out to the staff. But in those 30 seconds, the boss accomplished a few things:
a. Value – the people who received this email feel valued that the boss thought to send them a note.
b. Insight – Guess what? The boss does stuff too, even when the staff doesn’t see it.
c. Excitement – With the extra jobs bid this week, it is exciting to think about what could be coming in the future.
d. Unity – Now that this e-mail is in mind, the next time a staff member sees someplace that needs their services then I bet they will tell their boss to send out a proposal!
Now yes, there are definitely going to be business items that are not for general knowledge. Communicating transparently doesn’t mean you share those things, and it doesn’t mean you breach confidentiality. But it does mean that you share the small wins and engage with the team often.
As you can imagine, once you are mindful of your communication then the transparency begins to get easier, and the best part is that it becomes natural for the entire team because they want to return the favor.
My next post will focus on the second basic step to managing a team.
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