Small Business and Startups: Best Boss Ever?

“Remember the difference between a boss and a leader; a boss says “Go!” – a leader says “Let’s go!”” – E.M. Kelly

There are plenty of ways to skin a cat. This applies not only to winning arguments and basketball strategy, but to business management as well. The idea in business, as with so many things, is to set specific, well-designed goals and design strategy to achieve those goals. Same goes with managing people. As a manager, define for yourself your goals with your subordinates and devise specific strategy and tactics to achieve them. Right?

But managing people is very different from managing marketing budgets or web design projects. Managing people is different because, well, people are people. They come with their own unique attitudes, problems, biases, preferences, and skills. And, in order to respect those differences, each and every one of them has to be managed differently. Having said that, they also need to be managed in exactly the same way; as the boss you have to make yourself available, make yourself known, and make yourself indispensable. So, being a great boss means being aware of the fact that each member of your team is uniquely different and that each of them needs you to treat them exactly the way you treat the others.

Contradictory? Perhaps a bit, but great bosses are consistent in their approach to managing individuals, while also making constant adjustments for each depending on circumstance, context, and the person’s needs. Great bosses are great leaders; overall the greatest of bosses pay close attention to the people around them and make sure to always give what that person needs. Here are a few thoughts on how to be that great boss…

Be available First and foremost, great bosses have to be accessible and present. This doesn’t necessarily mean a 24/7/365 policy of open door office and personal cell phone contact around the clock. Rather, it means that you should be available when team members have concerns they’d like to voice, ideas they’d like to share, or complaints they’d like to make. Being present means that you need to show face; your people need to know that you are in the trenches (however that is defined at your company) and working as hard or harder than everyone else to build the company and execute vision. An open office or lots of glass goes a long way towards achieving this goal, as does a consistent presence in group chats, at meetings, and in more informal settings such as lunchtime chats and after-work refreshments.

Be known Many bosses remain ciphers to the team year in and year out. Team members may have no concept whatsoever about the person they work for on a personal, professional, or social level. It’s critical that your employees know who you are, understand what drives you, and can recognize your own unique set of skills, personality, and traits. Consistency and predictability in your behavior and in your physical presence go a very long way in employee satisfaction as well as in overall productivity. Don’t be afraid to let them know who you are and what makes you tick, and once they know you, do not go changing with the winds.

Be indispensable Not only do you need to be there for the team and not only do you need to be predictable in your behaviors and attitudes, but you also have to be important to the work. Your team should certainly be able to carry on if, please no, something were to happen to you tomorrow, but today you should be an active leader, guide, collaborator, and parter to your people. By being present and consistent, you will become the person they seek out when they need help and the person they are comfortable following loyally as well as debating with vigorously.

Photo: 6 planets orbiting the star Kepler-11, by NASA/Wikimedia Commons