From being your own boss to becoming THE boss: how to manage people

There are many self-help articles advising employees on how they can transition to being their own boss. But what if you want to do the opposite?

Maybe you’re a freelancer or a solo entrepreneur who is thinking of going back into full-time employment because you want a more stable career. If so, you’re not alone.

Many women, after quitting their 9-5 job and turning to self-employment, after having children, choose to return to the workforce. And the good news is that you don’t need to slide down the promotion pole and start back at the bottom if you do.

If you’ve been successfully working alone for quite some time, your career experience could qualify you for a more senior role instead of an entry-level one.

However, one challenge you may face is suddenly being in charge of other people. This may seem like a daunting task, especially if you’ve never had the experience of managing other people.

If you’re about to transition to being a manager, here are some things that you can expect and a few recommendations that could help you out.   

You will be tempted to micromanage

When you’re working alone, you’re in control of your own schedule, and no one else’s. You can take a break whenever you want and move your meetings around to whatever suits you or your clients. Your work output is only dependent on your own efforts. 

However, when you’re back in a corporate setting as a manager, you’re responsible for other people in your team too.

If it’s your first time managing employees, the default move is often to micromanage or just do the task yourself. You may be tempted to nit-pick over timesheets and lunch hours to check people aren’t slacking off. However, this micromanaging can backfire on you.

Your team members aren’t children who need to be monitored every minute. And that is not your job. Instead you need to delegate and focus on the bigger picture, rather than track attendance and break times.

Don’t be the type of boss who limits coffee breaks and penalises employees for occasional tardiness. This will just brew resentment and demotivate your team.

Instead of micromanaging, set well-defined goals and be results-driven. Clearly tell your staff what you want them to complete on a daily or weekly basis. This way you can measure your staff’s performance based on what they have achieved rather than by how much time they spent in the break room.

You also need to treat your team members as professionals and trust them to do their jobs. If your employees are taking breaks, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are trying to get out of work.

In fact, do you know that according to several studies, office coffee breaks can be a productivity booster? Micro breaks can help office workers to recharge themselves so that they can make fewer mistakes and focus on their tasks better.

You have to coach and mentor your team members

While it is not your task to micromanage employees, this doesn’t mean that you should simply leave them to their own devices. You have to clearly set your expectations and make sure that they understand what needs to be done and how to do the job well.

Being the boss is not just about ordering people to do things, you need to share your skills and experiences with your team members so that they can learn from you.

When your employees improve and advance in their careers with your support and guidance, this won’t just benefit their professional growth, but the entire organisation as well. 

You have to keep your employees engaged

Unhappy employees who are performing below expectations is a common problem for many managers. There may be a variety of reasons why this happens, and it’s your job as a manager to get to the bottom of it so you can avoid similar incidents in the future.

The easiest solution may appear, at first, just to let an unmotivated and underperforming employee go, and find a replacement. But often this is costly and time-consuming.

As the saying goes ‘prevention is better than cure’. This means that as a manager, you need to find ways to keep your staff happy and engaged. Happy employees are productive employees because they devote more effort to the tasks. So, how do you keep your employees engaged? 

Of course, there are the obvious team building activities and company trips, but if your budget is limited there are some simple yet effective engagement strategies that won’t break the bank. Some examples include:

  • Giving individual attention to your employees.
  • Offering non-cash incentives, like a day off or a paid holiday.
  • Saying “thank you” and “good job” after a job well done.
  • Making employees feel that they are part of the company’s big-picture goals.

You have to deal with different personalities

Every employee is different. And it’s rare to have team members who all have agreeable, cookie-cutter personalities. Instead, as a manager, you’ll encounter a mix of people with different work habits, preferences, and attitudes. And it’s your job to work with this, and turn it into an asset.

It is also important to remember that you’re a manager – not a dictator. And, while there’s nothing wrong with positively influencing your staff on adopting better work habits, forcing them to work your own way is not always the answer. Instead, you have to use the skills and strengths of your employees to achieve your work objectives.

As a manager, you also have to act as a problem solver when issues arise, including managing conflicts among members of your team.

It’s normal to feel reticent about getting involved in conflict and being responsible for finding a resolution, but you need to remember that you’ve been given a managerial position because you have the maturity and the skills required for the role. And it’s down to you to take control of the situation and find the best way to resolve it.

Leading like a boss

Being in charge of other people is not an easy task. It comes with many responsibilities that you won’t encounter as a solo entrepreneur.

Keep in mind, however, that your employees are there to help you work better and achieve your goals more effectively, rather than delay or derail you. Being an effective manager is not just about you; it is also about bringing the best out of the people you work with.

Photo by Monica Silva