I was cleaning out my spam folder the other day and one subject line caught my eye as I deep-sixed it to oblivion where it belonged. “Be Your Own Boss!” I believe they were offering the latest work at home scheme, guaranteed to give me the peace of mind I must be looking for while relieving me of my bank account.
Those who know me understand I have been interested in having my own business for years. I call myself a closet entrepreneur, eager for the excitement but scared of the unknown and deeply addicted to my current paycheck. While I would love to run my own show, there are certain realities I have to deal with, such as my current salary is high enough that any attempt at starting a business would require a catastrophic pay cut.
For some reason, though, when I read this piece of spam, something triggered in my mind. I am my own boss. I control my job, my career, my finances, so many aspects of my life already. Sure, I have a manager at work who fills in quite a few details in regards to what I do for the company where I work, but ask most business owners and they will tell you their clients often stipulate such things.
On the way to work that day, I started thinking about how I would act if I were the CEO of my own company. How would I act as I worked at my client’s site? How would I attack the pile of work on my desk? Would I think differently about the decisions I have to make? I am somewhat ashamed to say that there were many things that came to mind I would do differently. The rest of that day I tried to act like a CEO. I walked confidently down the hall, greeting everyone. I approached decisions from a company standpoint instead of just my little area of focus. I worked to use every minute as effectively as possible, planning every move as if it were costing ten times my actual salary. I have to admit it was perhaps the most productive day I have had in a very long time. It was fun, too.
Since that day, I watch CxO leaders and small business owners more carefully. What do they do that I don’t? How do they act? What do they concern themselves with? Who do they talk to and what do they discuss? How do they get between meetings? How do they schedule their days? How do they manage the endless piles of work on their desks? My observations have been very telling on where I can improve as CEO of my own company.
Here is a partial list of some of the behaviors I need to improve:
- Delegation. These people are always handing off tasks to others. They aren’t ducking the responsibility, but they are looking for the right person to do the work at the least expense possible. Their time is at a premium. They shouldn’t be spending time making meeting reservations, document proofing and such. They know who does it better than they and assigns the work to them.
- Organization. Their days are filled with meetings, appointments, calls and other requirements. Yet they still have to get all their other work done. They know what has to be done and how to fit into the little cracks. This is where an administrative assistant can be very helpful. Of course, I don’t have one assigned to me, but there are tricks I have learned from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, that help. A weekly review can be as good as an administrative assistant for the rest of us. Identifying all the tasks to be done, prioritizing and having them on a list, ready to execute when the time allows provides a huge advantage when a meeting ends early. Pick one and go.
- Make a decision. I tend to dither over decisions. I always want more data, to seek consensus and advice of others. And then I want more data. Guess what? Make a decision and move on. Unless a life is at stake, the decision can be adjusted later when more data becomes available.
- Smile while walking. People are always watching a leader for a clue as to how things are going. When the CEO walks down the hall, eyes on the floor, brows furrowed and mouth set in a frown, no one guesses he is trying to figure out what to get his wife for her birthday. Instead, they run and polish their resume, assuming the worst. When our business owner walks around with a smile on her face, head up and eyes sparkling, likewise no one suspects she is going over the sales shortfall for the month and how to proceed without having to do a layoff. They see confidence and push harder themselves. Learn to hide emotions. Perhaps this is why poker is such a popular game.
I have tried to treat my work as if I were the boss lately. It has changed the complexion of how I look at the work. It is a little more exciting, a little more daunting and a little more rewarding. I can see there are many behaviors I have yet to learn. Some days I revert to the victim employee, just waiting for someone to tell me what to do. I work at pulling myself out of that mindset when I recognize it and head back to my lists for a next action. I’m the boss. I better start acting like one.