Article in brief: A couple of ways you can be a good boss and improve everyone’s performance abilities.
I’m a big fan of formulas. Math or science wasn’t always my favorite subject but I loved the straightforwardness that a formula provides. You know what factors to put in and when you get an answer you can know for certain whether it’s right or wrong. I try using “formulas” for writing, décor, organization and pretty much any aspect of life I can apply one to. Part of it stems from the fact that throughout my university studies of International Relations, I was extremely deprived of applying formulas because I could never use one to figure out the correct answer. Was there even one when it comes to politics? Now, with my retail and F&B business, I find that in some cases, you just have to rely on practice and intuition.
One of the most challenging things about working anywhere or running a business is handling the staff. Let’s take a few minutes and imagine something for a second; let’s say it’s a bubble and you’re in it. Think of all the thoughts, emotions, experiences, and opinions that make you who you are. Now add several other people with equal complexities to that bubble and imagine them all interacting together. When I picture something like that, I picture an amalgamation of synapses and a spectrum of electromagnetic rays on caffeine, jumping from one person to the other. That is the essence of human interaction in a workplace, or in any environment really. The workplace, however, has that particular characteristic of bringing out everyone’s true essence.
Sadly, there is no formula you can apply to streamline staff interactions in a workplace, but with practice and a lot of trial and error, you may just get it right after a few tries. Over the past year and a half, I’ve made several mistakes and learnt a lot about people in the workplace.
Firstly, as a ‘boss’ (I always find the word boss a very loaded word), it is important to establish a fine line between being a friend and being a supervisor. Your staff should see you as someone who expects impeccable performance every time, but they should also view you with the comfort that they would view a friend. If you constantly adopt a stern, no-nonsense nature then you are harming the business environment and ultimately your business. Your staff’s morale won’t be where it should be, resulting in poorer performance, which is a vicious cycle. And whenever they experience something in your business system that they realize needs improvement, they will hesitate to approach you. It’s about achieving that delicate balance that is challenging but necessary for a successful work environment.
Secondly, for the benefit of both yourself and your staff, you must learn to delegate responsibilities. I made this mistake during the first few months of opening our store. I was constantly there and would be the one to handle the interaction with every single customer. I thought I was doing a good thing- by providing the customer service that I knew was ideal and also letting my staff observe how to interact with customers. This, however, backfired as my staff became lethargic and (consciously or unconsciously) dependent on me when it came to customer service. This situation didn’t help anyone. I couldn’t always be present at the store, as I had to take care of the myriad of other tasks that come with running a small business. I was the marketer, accountant, purchaser, boutique buyer, recipe developer, and event coordinator all in one. Creating an environment where I had to constantly be at the shop detracted from my ability to complete my other important tasks, thus decreasing my productivity. It also left the staff clueless on how to practice smart decision-making.
Any business owner must learn to let go over the control of some things. Having fewer decisions to make helps you make better, more informed ones about more important tasks. It also helps your staff grow, both as professionals and people and generally increases everybody’s morale (including yours). What about implementing decisions from your staff to give them more responsibility and a sense of ownership?
Learning these important points took me more than a year, and I still feel I could do a better job at practicing what I preach. But recognizing the issue and devising a solution to address it is solving half the problem. With anything, even formulas, it takes several if not dozens of tries to get something right, and when what you’re trying to work on is other people, the situation gets even more complex. It’s a constant and growing learning curve, and ensuring what to stress on and what to let go of helps in ways that will pay off in your results.