Most people view ‘being the Boss’ as an opportunity to enjoy various benefits, perks, and privileges. The benefits, perks, and privileges are definitely nice. But even if you are starting a multi-million dollar business, those are not what should excite you. And if they are what entirely excite you, I think you should pause and have a rethink. To have a chance to succeed, you must appreciate the gravity of being the boss and take that seriously. Understanding the reality, and not the myth, of being the boss will set you on a path of eventual and long-term success.
What does it mean to be the Boss?
As soon as you decide to be an entrepreneur and/or you start a business, you have become a ‘boss’, even if you are a one-person operation. This is because you will now need to have a vision, create a sense of mission, develop a working strategy and must manage resources to achieve your set objectives.
A lot of business writers have tried to distinguish between a leader and a manager. And indeed there is need to understand the difference. By far the best clarification, I think, is made by Peter Drucker when he said ‘“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” More importantly however, is that we must realise that the two roles complement each other. For our purposes here therefore, the boss is a leader and manager rolled into one. So what will be your responsibilities as a boss ?
There will be many things the boss must get done. Some are strategic whilst others are obviously routine. Whilst you should focus on the strategic issues, you must also keep a keen eye on the routine. You will indeed find yourself involved in what you may consider mundane matters. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to ensure your daily survival while at the same time you are on the right path to growth and excellence. Be ready for many things, planned and unplanned. The write up here will simply give you a bird’s eye view of a few things that you should be ready for.
Again, start with yourself: Take it from me that I will never get tired reminding you to start anything you are doing with yourself. Check yourself to ensure that you are prepared to be the boss. Being prepared does not mean you have to have all the resources you require for the mission. It doesn’t even mean you will not make mistakes. It just means that you are ready to set sail and make mistakes and corrections along the line. I think the most important philosophy you should hold dear as the boss, and constantly remind yourself, is that you must be true to yourself and honest with others at all times.
What do you expect for and of yourself? It should be absolutely clear to you what you want to, personally, achieve. Obviously, we mostly start with the most basic objectives in life. This is necessary if we are to first survive and then be able to grow thereafter. With whatever objective you are starting however, you must be true to yourself. The next thing is also to understand that at the end of the day, the most successful enterprises are those that go beyond us as individuals. Of course the limiting factors are mostly our individual capacities, which must not be oblivious to us. Think deeply to start right, and make improvements along the line. Think of all the greatest leaders and managers you know, and you will realise one thing in common: they all achieved personal successes as well as some larger goals beyond themselves. This is true of the military, politics, and business. Think of Marshal Georgy Zhukov of the Soviet army, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, and Jack Welch of General Electric.
What is expected of you as the boss? Your role as a boss is one fraught with much responsibilities to yourself, your loved ones, friends, colleagues, your community etc. The circle grows wider as your business grow and different stakeholders will have different expectations of you. Be clear of what those expectations are and ensure that you create a sensible and healthy balance between competing ones. Take your stakeholders and their legitimate interests seriously. Communicate in advance whenever you are likely to fall short of expectations. Be committed to leading by example by doing what you expect your people to do. Specifically, you will need to work on the following:
1. Create a Vision: The first thing you need to have is a vision of exactly what you want to achieve. It is your responsibility as the boss to create a compelling vision for your organisation. A compelling vision to your staff will create passion and excitement. This is important in creating the energy and momentum you require to survive in the initial stages of your operation and for you to grow and excel thereafter. A clear vision is a mental picture of what an organisation wants to achieve over the long-run. The best bosses are those who can make this vision so clear that their colleagues and followers will literally ‘see’ what is being pursued. Vision should never just be a written statement that even staff scorn at. It must be a real object of obsession that everyone in the organisation sincerely and truly see.
Part of what I will suggest that you integrate into your visioning process, is your corporate values. This is because establishing your corporate values and the consequential culture that will arise therefrom will ease decision making process for you and your staff. By integrating your value expectations in your recruitment process, you will also ensure that you attract only the right people that will further entrench the culture. Requirement for diversity in knowledge, skills and experiences should however not to be undermined in any way.
Look at what Coca Cola has to say about their Vision, Mission and Values: http://www.coca-colacompany.com/our-company/mission-vision-values
2. Develop a working strategy: The military is one of the oldest and most successful human organisations. For every mission, a clear strategy is always worked out in advance of roll out. For your business to succeed you must also identify where you are right now and define where you want to get to. How you get from where you are to where you want to get to is basically your strategy.
To be able to develop a working strategy, you should obtain as much relevant information as is possible and make necessary analyses on the business environment, scenario construction, market reviews, critical success factors, SWOT analysis etc. This will help you make strategic choices that will build your formal strategy. Depending on the size of your business, you may need to come up with a ‘global’ Corporate strategy as well as Business Units and Operational strategies. Inspite of the formal process you may need to go through, Jack Welch, the extremely successful former CEO of General Electric insists, and very rightly so, that you should make your strategy formulation extremely easy. This is not in anyway taking away the thorough analyses and reviews you have to make to be able to formulate the strategy. He argues that at the end of the day, it is in your execution of the strategy that you will distinguish yourself and your business.
After all is said and done, the essence of your strategy is to choose courses of actions and activities that will make it possible for you to outperform your competitors. It must clearly spell out where you want to play and how you plan to win. I strongly suggest that you read about a few companies that have done extremely well because of their well thought out and articulated strategies. Two such companies are IKEA and Nordstrom.
3. Provide and manage resources: As the boss, you have to provide the resources required to achieve your business objectives. The resources will obviously be wide ranging as human capital, funds, equipment, etc. It is very important that you make thorough assessments of what will be required and then plan how you will make them available to your organisation. You may not always have everything you require. So you have to look at how you achieve more with less (i.e. improve your efficiency) and/or how to create alternative solutions.
Another critical thing here, is to realise than you must develop your ability to seek assistance and support whenever you require it. You should therefore work to develop your network of contacts. But do this altruistically and be available to help others when they call on you as well. Enjoy supporting others as much as you enjoy it when they support you.
Having provided resources, you must be efficient in using them. All your assets such as staff, time, cash, equipment etc should all be used judiciously towards achieving your business objectives.
You may want to read our article on bootstrapping.
4. Motivate your people: I have mentioned elsewhere that the most important resource you will ever have are your people. The benefits of having a highly motivated workforce are too numerous, ranging from higher productivity, lower levels of absenteeism, to lower levels of staff turnover and higher sense of personal responsibility. To get the best out of your employees, you must motivate them. This is where your own emotional intelligence is very critical. First improve your own self-awareness and that will help you understand others as well. Obviously, as an organisation you must have common standards against which you work to motivate your staff.
Your objective is to to be able motivate your employees by setting the psychological forces that determine the direction of their individual behaviours as well as their level of effort and persistence. So many factors determine the level of effort and commitment of your staff. These may include amongst others, employee empowerment, job simplification and enlargement, quality of life programs, various types and forms of rewards and recognitions. The bottom line is that you should make your people happy and excited to come to work each morning. It is entirely up you and your team to determine what works.
5. Execution: The willingness and ability to take action towards achieving your business objectives determines your chances of success. Absolutely nothing happens unless you take action. That is execution.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs have wonderful ideas but stop short of executing their plans. There are basically two reasons which makes execution difficult. The first is that it requires people to change their behavior. That is to say if you want to achieve goals you have never achieved before, you have to do things you have never done before. As we all know, changing human behavior is never easy. The second reason is that implementing these changes in an environment that’s already in flux with several urgent priorities is tough. To avoid being derailed from achieving your goals therefore, you should accept change as constant factor in your business life and secondly, you must be able to set priorities on the basis of their importance.
To make execution a second nature in your organisation, it is proven that you should develop four levels of disciplines as follows:
a) The discipline of focus: You can only achieve extraordinary results when you are clear about what matters most.
b) The discipline of leverage: As an entrepreneur, your regular challenge will be to accomplish various feats with limited resources. You must therefore be able to find real leverage and how to use it to produce extraordinary results.
c) The discipline of engagement: You authority is likely to produce only limited results. To achieve the extraordinary results you aspire, you must be able to engage the passion and commitment of your staff.
d) The discipline of accountability. This is a necessary control element that sets legal and moral bounds to behaviour within the organisation.
A very important component of your execution strategy is follow-up. Even as you should give your staff the necessary leeway they require to achieve what has been agreed upon, you must follow-up on everything. Once your staff get used to the idea that you never let any ball out of your sight, they will ensure that they get things done before you put the call.
You may want to read our articles on ‘Getting Things Done’ and ‘Prioritisation’.
Two more things that are important as well:
a) Anticipate Set-backs: I have to remind you, again, that you should expect set-backs, disappointments, and even failures. These will come from your own actions and inactions and from your staff and business associates. But none of these deter or discourage a truly determined entrepreneur. On the contrary, they only spur us the more. You should learn to handle them as they arise without loss of focus or enthusiasm. Giving up on a project or action should only be because of well thought out and justifiable basis.
b) Celebrate achievements: I will conclude this write up by encouraging you to recognise achievements and celebrate them. From individual staff, business units and the whole enterprise, it is refreshing and motivating to celebrate achievements. Have clearly defined yardsticks for recognising achievements. Communicate what and how you will celebrate and reward such achievements. Give people at different levels and functional capacities the opportunity to win. Encourage collaboration by rewarding units and groups.
As I mentioned earlier, you have to view your role as the boss more from the perspective of your responsibilities than your rights. And if you enjoy discharging these responsibilities with the highest levels of enthusiasm, while moving between achievements, set backs and even failures, you will truly be on the way to success.
Our next article will be on Self Management.