Many entrepreneurs had their share of bad bosses before setting up their own business operations. Trying not to fall into the bad habits of others – or avoiding your own versions – can be a challenge, especially for people who excel in doing rather than managing.
Here’s a short checklist that might help you avoid the most common pitfalls:
- Lead by example and be clear about your rules, guidelines and expectations
If you want your employees to dress appropriately or work normal office hours, make sure that you aren’t breaching your own guidelines. Be sure people know what you expect from them in terms of workplace conduct and that they recognize the type of environment you offer.
- Create and distribute written workplace guidelines
Don’t assume everyone shares your standards and values. They don’t. In these litigious times, every business needs something in writing (reviewed by a legal professional) that states company policy and procedures. This is the document that states what is not allowed in the workplace – whether it be sending comments and photos regarding work to Facebook or using office equipment (computers, scanners, etc.) for personal business. This document can also address confidentiality issues, vacation and sick time policies, and non-compete requirements.
- Be honest and consistent
Being the boss means you will sometimes have to give employees unpleasant news, share information and/or address problems and issues with them. Remember, you are their boss first, not their friend. If you use little white lies to try to avoid uncomfortable conversations – telling one person one thing and another employee something different – you run the risk of appearing inconsistent or untruthful. Employees want to know where they stand, what the boss plans to do and how the boss feels about work-related issues. It is best to deliver bad news honestly, without delay, and directly to those it affects. To do otherwise can generate conflicting rumors and undermine morale and trust.
- Praise publicly; criticize privately
There will be times when something, or someone, makes you frustrated, angry or even fearful. You are human, after all. Whatever works – a walk outside, breathing deeply, etc. – to avoid a public outburst, do it. No matter how severely provoked, shouting, expressing anger or losing your temper won’t make the situation better. In fact, it might seriously upset those who played no part in creating the situation. When you can address the issue with the individual calmly, do so in private. Only discuss individual employees’ job performances publicly if you are delivering praise.
- Conduct diligent reference searches
Don’t be tempted to cut corners when checking references on new hires. Remember that you are trying to determine competency and character. An inexperienced worker or unscrupulous individual can create havoc and cost you a lot of money in a short amount of time. If you hire people with little or no relevant work experience, make sure that you train and supervise them carefully. What is obvious to you might not be obvious to them.
Being a boss brings its own rewards and challenges. Remember that most employees take their cues from what they see the boss doing. You set the tone and atmosphere of the workplace. Upholding consistent standards and expectations in a place of work where mutual respect thrives will make your management duties much easier.