As a startup owner, I've been sharing all work with my two employees, from meeting customers to making coffee. Now that we're growing and hiring, I need to be freed from a lot of day-to-day tasks. How do I start being the boss without causing resentment?
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First, congrats on your success! Next, prepare for more growing pains. Everyone will have to adjust to changing roles and responsibilities, including you. It’s likely the skills that got you here aren’t the ones you now need.
While others take on the expanding work, your new job is to coordinate and improve it. You must set benchmarks, manage staff, oversee results and strategize growth. Those tasks will help set you apart and lend you more authority. You also need to be less chummy yet still remain friendly: Listen to complaints or harmless gossip, but don’t share.
To really shift from pal to boss, start showing you’re in charge. Here’s how:
- Assign specific tasks. Focus on work only you can accomplish, then give the rest to subordinates. Don’t be a control freak, though, and don’t second-guess decisions. When delegating, the first rule is empowerment.
- Chuck your ego. Stop telling yourself that no one does anything as well as you do. Assess your strengths and weaknesses, then figure out the talent and skills you need to drive growth.
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- Let go in stages. Don’t rush. Suddenly shifting your responsibilities won’t stick. It must be done gradually.
- Don’t play favorites. Select employees who can best get jobs done, not a friend or protégé.
- Make your intentions clear. Communicate your expectations and goals. Explain what needs to be accomplished, but not how to do it.
- Review results regularly. This can be done through casual weekly breakfasts or formal monthly reports.
- Don’t give and take away. Be consistent about authority you delegate.
- Never criticize in a crowd. Always set up private meetings for feedback. Offer specific, positive ways to correct problems rather than ticking off disappointments.
- Don’t dump. Make sure you’re delegating work, not getting rid of tasks you can’t be bothered to do.
- Recognize the individual. Let each staffer know he or she can make a difference.
- Ask for input, then respond. By asking, you may learn something. But don’t request feedback or suggestions and then ignore it.
- Interact with employees. Don’t rush through the door and head for your desk. Stop and chat. No one likes to be taken for granted.
— Joanna L. Krotz