Change Catalyst with Shanna Mann: Strategy & Support for Sane Self-Employment

≡ Menu

Yes, You Still Have a Boss

Most people gravitate towards self-employment for independence’s sake. We’ll often chortle, “I don’t have a boss!” thrilled with the subversive pleasure of it all in a world that worships authority.

That’s the thing I find interesting about language– — the implications in word choice are immense. Saying instead, “I’m my own boss,” gets a lot closer to the heart of the matter but what often seems to happen is we become “our own employees.” Whoops.

A Management Vacuum

It’s one of those traps that sort of sneaks up on you. You hang out your shingle, and you get to work. You work and you work and you work, and suddenly you realize– who’s keeping track of strategic initiatives? Who’s even coming up with them? What’s the big picture plan here, and how do you know you’re making progress on it?

That person is you. Or ought to be, anyway. 

So yes, you still have a boss, but if you don’t realize the responsibilities of that role and make a point to discharge them capably, you’re going to be a really shitty boss. Not the kind of boss you gives you a hard time, of course– — just the kind of boss who doesn’t show up for work half the time and never knows what’s going on. A benignly shitty boss, if you will. 

So how do you get into the habit of being a good boss? By doing what good bosses do.

So how do you get into the habit of being a good boss? By doing what good bosses do.

Shift From Implementor to Visionary

God knows nothing would get done if you weren’t the one doing it. That’s pretty much the definition of solopreneur, and the reason we fall into the management vacuum trap. We have to implement, relentlessly, if we’re going to be in business. 

The trouble is, we also have to shift to big picture views, and that’s tough to do when you really have to maintain focus. 

According to Your Brain At Work, by David Rock, planning and prioritizing are the most resource-intensive things you can do with your brain. So you have to do it first, or you’re never going to do it. That’s how hard it is. 

That’s why I advocate weekly reviews. They’re basically the first step in learning to “be the boss” and practice that big picture perspective. The fact that planning is so resource-intensive is also why I recommend doing them on the weekend, when there’s no deadline pressure, and you’re well-rested.

Ask Good Questions

The problem with the Implementor mindset is that it’s simply focused on doing things. All it wants is to check stuff off the list. It’s not reflective, it’s reflexive. It’s not concerned with high level issues of whether a particular action is worthwhile, or the most efficient, or if it should really be put aside in favor of something else— it’s pretty much a mindless worker ant like that.

The job of the boss is to ask good questions. Questions like “What are our objectives?” “What have we learned?” “Is how we’re doing this aligned with our purposes and principles?” 

It’s about asking “How do we want the client to feel during every aspect of the process?” “How can we help the client feel more that way?” “What does our client want to accomplish and how can we aid them?”

It’s also about taking care of the goose that lays the golden eggs. The most important question in my weekly review is the one at the end: “Where am I at and what do I need?” and I reflect on my struggles and figure out ways to support myself better.

Schedule Times To ‘Be The Boss’

Being the boss is hard–even when you have no employees. So you’ve really got to make a point to schedule time to put on your boss hat. Figure on spending a couple of hours with your boss hat on every week, at least a day every month, and maybe as much as three days every quarter to do longer term planning. 

Put it in your calendar right now. 

Otherwise, you’ll get back into Implementor mode and forget. Dooooo eet.

And maybe ask yourself,

What do you need out of a boss?

CataLyst subscribers are currently enjoying a free mini-course to “Be The Boss” right now. Sign up to get it too!