Like a Boss

What is a boss? I always think of a boss as a leader, right? Or a manager. Someone in charge, someone making decisions and directing the actions of others. Someone who knows what the goals are and has a plan for achieving them. Someone qualified. With authority. Someone we respect. Someone we are supposed to obey.

There are good bosses and bad bosses, and I’m sure we’ve all had both in our work experience. What makes a boss a good boss? They lead with certainty but with patience. They are firm, but not harsh. They are clear, concise and reasonable. They clearly define expectations, boundaries, rewards and consequences. They are respected. They lead by example, they provide guidance, resources and encouragement.

Who is the boss? The boss of you? It should be you. You are “in charge” of everything you do or don’t do. So, what kind of boss are you? Are you a good boss? Do you know the goals? Do you have a plan for achieving them? Do you lead yourself with certainty and reasonableness? Do you have clearly defined expectations, boundaries, rewards and consequences for yourself? Do you seek out examples to lead yourself by? Do you have a resource for guidance and encouragement in your leadership role of yourself? This may, at first, sound a little absurd, but it is all quite necessary if we are to lead ourselves into evolving into the person we hope to become.

Whether we work or not, whether we are self employed or work for a company, large or small, someone is in charge of what we do, how we spend our time, and what we produce. There are all types of “bosses” in this world, in and out of the workplace.

Think of parenthood. Parents are “bosses” of their children, and boy oh boy, some are good, some are not, and the result is usually pretty evident.

My daughter was telling me a story about a poor parenting example she witnessed. She saw a toddler, probably about two years old, the child was whiny and fussy and eventually escalated into a full blown screaming tantrum. The mother was paying the child no attention whatsoever until the shrieking was well under way, then she sent the older sibling to the vending machine for a 20 ounce bottle of Dr. Pepper for the toddler. This pacified the child. This is horrifying on a couple of levels; one, no one should be drinking soda, in my opinion, it is merely type 2 diabetes in a can. Certainly, a two year old should not even know what a soda is, let alone “require” one for pacification. Secondly, the mother did not even attempt to communicate with the fussy toddler, to lead, direct or guide the child, she simply gave the child what it wanted without even a discussion.

I know, all children get fussy and whiny and will have screaming tantrums. Mine did, though rarely. I spent a great deal of time talking to my children, even well before they could speak. I always spoke to them with respect and treated them with dignity. I didn’t use baby talk, I didn’t “mince words”, I used the same calm, compassionate but firm tone, inflection and vocabulary I did with the people in the accounting department I managed. My children knew the expectations, the rewards and the consequences for their behaviors, and they always excelled at vocabulary in school!

I have had many bosses over the course of my career, many good, a few bad. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to perform satisfactorily for a “bad” boss, I’m sure you can agree. When expectations are incomplete, unstated or unclear, much time is wasted and there is a high degree of frustration on both sides of the equation. A boss with a volatile temperament makes for a very stressful work life. A boss who is apathetic and allows his entire department to underperform is, perhaps, even worse.

So, if you are your own boss, how are you doing?

Are you an apathetic boss? You want to lose weight, get fit, be happier, achieve certain personal, professional or educational goals. Do you have a plan you expect to follow? And do you hold yourself accountable for making progress towards those goals, according to the plan? Do you let yourself underperform, to the detriment of your goals, your desires, your dreams, your life?

Are you a volatile boss? Do you get mad at yourself for falling down on your goals? Self loathing is a terrible thing. Have you ever caught yourself saying “I hate myself?”

Are you a disorganized boss? Do you provide yourself with the goals, the plan, the guidance, the resources and the patience and counseling necessary to grow and achieve in the manner you hope for? Or do you just kind of plug along through life without direction?

Truthfully, not many of us are very good bosses of ourselves, or we’d all be trim, fit, happy and rich, right? Not many people really consider the necessity of being their own boss in just the matters of day to day life, but this is probably the one, single most important form of leadership we need as individuals. Without our own leadership, it is very difficult to grow and perform to the degree that other leaders in our lives expect.

Take note of people you may know that are successful at work or successful in other aspects of life; sports, hobbies, charitable ventures. They tend to have certain qualities that those who aren’t as successful lack. Self control, high self esteem, self direction, self discipline, confidence, organizational skills, time management skills, self-motivation. How many of these qualities include the word “self”? That means, quite simply, they are relying on their “self” to be the boss, to lead.

To be “like a boss” then, we need to develop those traits, characteristics and habits that allow us to become more in control of ourselves, to have a higher self-esteem, to be more self-directed, to have more confidence, better organizational skills and time management skills, to be more self-motivated.

Most of these traits, characteristics and habits begin with setting clearly expressed, measurable goals and an outline of a plan to move towards them. Most of theses traits and characteristics rely on replacing poor habits we may have with good habits we desire, and on being firm, clear and accountable for our own actions.

I have spent the last several years delving into my own “self-management style”, I have seen very satisfying change and growth and evolution. I often catch myself asking myself “how are you going to feel if you let yourself down?”. I’m not unreasonable, but I do truly feel bad about myself if I disappoint myself by doing or not doing something I expect of myself in order to accomplish my goals. But I don’t let a temporary setback completely derail me. If I disappoint myself by not working out one day, I don’t just stop working out, I pick up where I left off the next day. If I indulge in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on Tuesday, I don’t wait until the following Monday to “start my diet” all over again. The moment I set that spoon down, we’re back to eating healthy, wholesome and reasonably. I may give myself a pep talk, but I don’t beat myself up. I manage myself with compassion, but with firmness.

I don’t hate myself, ever, for disappointing setbacks. I love myself, always. I love myself enough to know that I deserve to be managed well. And, by loving myself, I am able to love those in my life genuinely and authentically. Self love is critical.

Many tend to think of loving oneself as vanity or conceit. Far from true. If you do not love yourself, you are setting a very bad example for those around you. If you do not love yourself, why should anyone else love you? Seems harsh when put to words, but think about it. You expect others to love you, but you don’t even afford yourself that respect. If you are self loathing, it is impossible for others to fill that void within you. You trudge through life with that void and it is perceptible to those around you. They may not be able to identify that you are self-loathing, just that you are not lovable. To be loved, you must be lovable. To be lovable, you must be loving, to yourself, firstly, else you don’t really know how to love others, to love at all.

Additionally, when you love yourself, you take care of yourself, you manage yourself. You don’t rely on others to do those jobs. This is a sign of respect and love for those around you. When you love yourself, you are naturally happier, again, to the pleasure of those near to you.

Where to begin? Start with a few goals and a whole bunch of self reflection on what changes you have to make to achieve those goals. Then begin to hold yourself accountable for progress. This isn’t something you do on January 1st then forget about, this should be something you discuss with yourself on a daily basis. That’s what a good boss does, makes the goals part of the daily agenda and part of the company culture, then provides loving guidance, direction and resources necessary to achieve those goals.

So, it’s time to get down to business. Like a boss.

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