Use Your Head

Can You Manage?

How To Be A Boss.

The thought of hiring an employee has about as much appeal for some entrepreneurs as being the focus of an IRS audit. But if your business is growing and you can no longer handle the load yourself, there may be no choice. And if you've never been a boss before, you're probably going to need some help. Here are a few hints to ease the way:

  • Treat your employees as you'd like to be treated. This seems almost too obvious to mention. Yet many entrepreneurs are so terrified of giving up power that they intimidate rather than lead their employees.

"Positive reinforcement works best," says Constantine G. Pergantis, president of Nite Lites, a North Potomac, Maryland, indoor- and outdoor-lighting company. "Remember how you felt when the boss chewed you out? Negativity breeds fear, not allegiance."

  • Recognize and reward accomplishment and performance. A simple "thank you" for a job well done will help any employee feel valued. But what form of recognition works best? It's an individual matter. "Be sure to take time to understand the needs and motivations of each employee," says Mark Sanborn, author of TeamBuilt: Making Teamwork Work (Master Media Corp., $12.95, 800-650-3343). "Employers who try to motivate employees without asking `What motivates you?' run the risk of failing to motivate at all."
  • Get organized. Too many entrepreneurs keep their businesses in their heads. That may work fine in a one-person operation, but employees aren't mind readers. They need to understand your rules, goals and expectations. Write everything down to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Be an active listener. Set aside time at least once a month to address your employees' concerns.
  • Empower employees. "Give them a sense of control over their work," advises Tricia Heldmann, publicity and marketing coordinator for the Small Business Development Center at the University of Connecticut School of Business Administration in Storrs, Connecticut. "Allow and encourage them to suggest and make changes."
  • Control results, not methods. "Be clear on what you expect your employees to accomplish," Sanborn says. "How someone gets a job done (as long as they are working ethically), is less important than the results. Don't control the wrong things."
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This article was originally published in the December 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Use Your Head.

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