No matter what industry you specialize in, you’re bound to have one thing in common with all other business owners: the desire to be a good boss.
After all, you wouldn’t set out to be an entrepreneur if you didn’t like dealing with other people in the first place, would you?
But as with anything in life, when it comes to team leading, we tend to get wrapped up in what’s comfortable and familiar — and then we stay there.
Of course, no two bosses are exactly alike, so this could mean any number of things for you. One thing is certain: good bosses lead to happy employees, and happy employees are better for business.
Here are five surprising ways you can start being a better boss today.
1. Take a vacation
You read that right. Being a good boss means knowing when it’s time to take a break.
It may sound counterproductive, but ask yourself this question: Are you comfortable leaving your employees on their own for a week, or even just a few days? Or are you scared everything will fall apart the minute you step outside the office?
No business owner is completely comfortable leaving their business alone, of course, especially within the first year or two. You’ve poured your heart and soul into this operation, so if anything goes wrong, it’s understandable you’d want to be on the ground to take care of it ASAP.
But bosses are people, and all people need to take the occasional break. If you’re scared everything may fall to bits while you’re away, the problem may extend beyond your natural inclination to want to be in control.
Being able to take a break means you’ve trained your employees well enough to keep things running smoothly without you. It also shows your team that you trust them to work hard even without you lurking over their shoulders. And in turn, they feel more important — and maybe even more inclined to get things done.
2. Focus on the result, not the method used to get there
As a business owner, there’s no doubt you’ve worked really hard to become an expert in what you do. But with your entrepreneurial spirit, you also know how important it is to harness your employees’ unique sets of skills.
That means it’s time to stop bossing them around. Tell your employees what needs to get done, and then let them control how they want to get there.
Of course, not every employee is the same, either. Some may require more hand-holding than others, but after proper training, they should be able to find their own way to complete the tasks you need them to do.
Being a good boss means tailoring your management style to individual employees and knowing when they need guidance versus when they need room to grow on their own. Ask them questions about how they would do things and what they need from you, and be open to their ideas, even if they propose a method that’s unfamiliar to you.
3. Delegate, delegate, delegate
Sometimes there is only one correct way to do a task. But as the boss, if it’s something you could do in your sleep, is it a good use of your time?
Delegating is an essential part of being a team leader, but we often let it fall by the wayside. It may seem easier to just take care of things ourselves, but after a while, taking care of too many small tasks when you’re also in charge of the big picture can be a huge, unproductive time suck.
“If you delegate work to a staff member, you should invest the time to ensure the person is set up to complete it successfully,” writes Alison Green, the brain behind the popular advice blog Ask a Manager. “If you’re regularly taking work back from your staff because you don’t trust it will be done well enough otherwise, you’re either not doing those earlier steps well enough (or at all) or there’s a performance issue that you need to address.”
Simply put, pay attention to why things aren’t getting done correctly rather than just doing them yourself, even if it seems easier than delegating at first. When your employees are trained correctly, you’ll feel comfortable leaving smaller tasks in their hands.
4. Get out of your comfort zone and onto a stage
There’s one thing all good leaders have in common: confidence (or at least the appearance of it).
One simple, though not necessarily easy, way to become more self-assured is to take up theater as a hobby. Getting comfortable performing in front of others is not only a great confidence-booster, it’s also good practice for selling. You need to convince the audience to believe what you’re saying, similar to what you do with employees and clients at work.
If you’re not sold on the idea of rehearsing and learning lines, consider taking an improvisational comedy class. There, you’ll get up and perform with others and act and react to events on the spot — excellent practice for many aspects of business!
5. Continue practicing, even when you make mistakes
We’re often fed the idea that leadership is an inherent trait. You’re either born to lead others or you’re not.
While it’s true leadership comes more naturally to some more than others, don’t resign yourself to thinking you’re as good a boss currently as you’re ever going to be.
“You can’t just read a book or attend a workshop and become a good leader,” says Brian Braudis, executive coach, podcaster, and founder of the Braudis Group. “The same principles that apply to playing guitar apply to leadership. You can’t read a book to learn to play. You need to apply what you read, repeat the lessons, and practice to become better. To become a better boss requires skill and will.”
You can’t become a better boss overnight, so start putting in a small amount of effort each day. Read management books and ask your employees for feedback (perhaps with the option to remain anonymous), and take small, daily measures to implement the advice you receive.