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By Jonathan London on 24th July 2015
One of the most common reasons why people choose to become self-employed is a desire to get out from under the thumb of a particularly unpleasant boss or manager.
We’ve all had experiences of working under a tyrannical, incompetent or overly bureaucratic superior, which is why it’s so refreshing to leave that world behind and work for yourself, accountable to nobody but your good self. Yet as your company grows, you may unexpectedly find yourself needing to take on staff of your own in order to meet your workload – and, suddenly, the boot will be on the other foot.
When confronted with poor management, it’s natural to think you’d be able to do a better job, but when you’re in a position where you need to prove it, you might realise it’s not so easy. After all, being an effective boss requires you to combine your business acumen with interpersonal skills, team management capabilities and great amounts of foresight.
Here are ten key traits of effective managers which are needed to become the kind of leader who staff members can really get excited about working with:
These are skills that self-employed and freelance workers are already likely to possess, but they’ll become even more important once you have employees working alongside or beneath you.
Your staff will be looking to you to take charge of project management, scheduling and key organisational matters; as such, you’ll need to be able to handle that responsibility, and to fight any temptations to get lax and cut corners. After all, it’s not just your professional future on the line any more.
It’s simple: if you’re not a people person, you’re unlikely to ever be a great manager. Even if you’re great at your own job, employees do not respond well to a boss who seems cold, disinterested and lacking in understanding of who they are as individuals.
That’s why it’s worth taking the time to get to know your staff, find common ground and develop a personal rapport, as well as showing understanding and compassion when they’re having problems. Not only will it help them to work more effectively, it’ll create a more pleasant environment for everyone.
For people who’ve been working on their own for a while, it can be difficult to adjust to the sudden need to communicate all of your plans and ideas to those around you, rather than simply working on them in your own head.
However, good communication is essential if you’re going to get everyone operating as a team and delivering on your priorities. Keep everyone in the loop, make yourself accessible, and provide regular updates to make sure nobody feels they’re blindly groping around in the dark.
A culture of candour and transparency can really help to foster trust and clear communication within an organisation, and it’s up to you to lead by example.
Be clear about your decision-making processes, encourage feedback, listen to what your colleagues have to say and don’t try and fob people off with buzzwords and opaque management-speak. If these are things you hated when you worked in an office job, chances are your staff won’t appreciate the same behaviour from you.
Self-employed people quickly get accustomed to doing everything on their own, but when you’re an employer, that’s no longer necessary. In fact, if your reason for hiring staff was to unlock new growth opportunities, then trying to carry on acting as a lone wolf will be actively harmful.
Learning to delegate is an essential skill for managers. You need to be able to determine which tasks can be carried out by your colleagues, and which would benefit from your personal focus and attention; however you need to do this without falling into the habit of palming off too much work on others, as this will be a losing strategy from both a business and a staff satisfaction perspective.
Running your own company requires you to be able to roll with punches, adapt to fast-changing circumstances and demonstrate the agility that your larger and more monolithic competitors cannot.
This goes double when you have your own staff, as this introduces a wide variety of new variables, demands and personal needs that need to be factored into your thinking. Creating a strategy is fine, but as a manager, you need to have the ability to throw out your best-laid plans and improvise when the situation calls for it.
There’s no foolproof formula for becoming a great leader, but creativity is a must if you’re going to inspire other people to follow you.
It’s easy to dismiss concepts like corporate visions and values as management buzzwords, but the fact of the matter is that people will need to believe in your leadership if you want them to become loyal, effective workers. As such, the ability to generate ideas that your colleagues can get excited and passionate about will be a key decider in the success or failure of your business.
As a manager, you’ll want to command the respect and trust of your colleagues and staff; however, that doesn’t mean trying to create a false impression of infallibility, as trying to do this is much more likely to make you seem aloof and pompous.
As such, it’s vital that you accept your flaws and mistakes, and allow others to respectfully point out where you might be going wrong; only by doing this will you be able to really grow and develop as a professional, and really win the respect you’re after.
It’s possible to debate the relative merits of the carrot or stick approaches to management, but let’s face it: most people respond better to a friendly, encouraging mentor than a coldly authoritarian taskmaster.
Obviously you’ll want staff to look up to you as a boss, but it’s possible to achieve this while still remaining a funny, warm and approachable person with whom it’s pleasant to spend time. Indeed, taking this approach is likely to coax the best work out of your staff.
Running a company is hard, and leading one as a manager in charge of multiple staff members may be even harder. However, the most successful ones don’t let this get them down, or detract from their desire to succeed.
By adopting a positive attitude, it will be easier for you to overcome the obstacles you face, to pursue and seize the opportunities that come your way, and to inspire your workforce to keep the faith and follow you down the road to bigger and better things.
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