How Bad Managers Prepared Me for Entrepreneurship
Bad managers prepared me for entrepreneurship in many ways. I think back to the beginning when my first managers. I was in awe. I thought they were geniuses. And as I grew, I learned they were humans, not superheroes. And then my managers became more like my teachers. There were some good and some bad. There were some that taught me a lot and some that I never quite understood. With each opportunity, I learned something new. My past managers taught me a lot about what type of leader I wanted to be.
I learned both what type of leader I wanted to be and the traits I knew I didnt want. I can best remember the managers who were great teachers. They modeled good leadership behavior, encouraged curiosity and innovation, and by all means, they understood that micromanagement was an unwelcomed characteristic. This is definitely how I started compiling my recipe of the traits of a good manager. And then, I started my business and became a teacher for others.
Managers as Teachers
I figured early in life that human beings have a natural curiosity for learning and new things. It’s how you present those things that lead to the curiousness of learning. It is no secret that passion leads, not power. In school, the best teachers had a passion for their work with affection for their students. In managers, that is translated into compassion, patience, and inspiration. All of these traits create an opportunity for development and learning. For me, I can appreciate a manager who is understanding of you as a person and your knowledge and skills. After all, employees should be encouraged to grow whatever their job description. But this isn’t always the case.
The best teachers were consistent in sharing important facts, transparent in communication, and laid out “what’s next”. They reinforced the things we did right and worked with us on the things that needed improvement. No one is perfect, in school or business. A good manager teaches you what you need to do to complete your job best.
However, a bad manager is more focused on getting the job done than the development of his team members. That type of manager is more of a task director than a teacher. Unfortunately, this results in high team turnover. Developing the right team has far more benefits than continuously onboarding new team members. That’s why a good manager doesn’t mind going the extra mile to make sure their team has what they need. They also make learning interesting in spite of the task. Thus team members are more committed to learning their subject matter.
Don’t be a Bad Manager
Nobody wants to learn from a bad manager. Admittingly, it’s a challenge to do so. And if your team members can not do their jobs, it reflects poorly on management. Have you ever noticed the difference between a manager who is forced to train you vs a manager who enjoys training you? I have! You either get all of the information you need to do the job or spend all of your time trying to gather what I need to do the job. The latter doesn’t make anyone happy.
It’s fairly easy to spot the difference between the two types of managers. One is committed to understanding the business goals and the team goals. The other type of manager is task-focused and primarily transactional. They often leave their team members feeling like they are something to check off of the to-do list. Undoubtedly, developing a dedicated team has far more benefits than continuously onboarding new team members.
How to Be a Good Manager
It may sound cliche but it reigns true. Empower your team to be the best they can be. You want your team to grow out of their positions rather than resign. A team member who understands the business, the goals and the consumer is a commodity. The management style includes creating a connected workplace culture in which all members can thrive.
This leads to your team communicating with you and others, with ease. Team members are eager to contribute and have a good attitude about their job. They are motivated to produce. They take ownership of their work. And they are willing to help other team members as well. All of these attributes are a result of the leadership you model. The business, in turn, grows and scales.
The Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned
Can you tell which traits I learned from a bad manager? I hope those would be the things I do best. It’s odd but learning about micromanagement prepared me for entrepreneurship. As the team member, I was forced to keep a well-detailed list of the work I was doing and the results. I had to be prepared to answer questions at all times. And it taught me to automate as much as possible. You don’t have to hoover your team members to know what’s happening in your business. Plus the time commitment to micromanagement is a time-waster.
But that’s not all I learned. First of all, as a small business, you can not afford to continuously train new employees. It’s costly and non productive. You end up spending more time working in the business than on the business. As a result, you can not position your business for profit. If you can even make a profit at all.
Secondly, all of my team members complete an extensive onboarding experience. If there is a mismatch, it’s often revealed during this time. We use all of our communication tools – email, video, manuals, templates. This provides an opportunity for continuous learning. It also motivates the team member to learn more about their job responsibilities.
Lastly, the team is often recognized for their effort and commitment. It’s not easy working for a business owner who is also a coach. Of course, I am going to motivate them to stretch their knowledge and skills. The key is a fine balance of teaching, understanding and information share.
To be the best teacher, be ok with being honest and direct. Your team will appreciate you for it. Remove the ambiguity and get to work. Everyone makes mistakes. Those mistakes only have value if you learn from them. Having this understanding creates an environment where employees feel understood and valued. Rest assured there are business challenges. However, those challenges are addressed with solutions and reasoning.
I learned every lesson, good or bad, is instrumental in the entrepreneurs’ world. It is your job as an entrepreneur to open your eyes to learning and opportunity and take them to heart. Becoming a good leader is a continuous process of learning and fine-tuning. It is as much science as art.
Entrepreneurship is hard but you don’t have to do it alone. Position 2 Profit Membership is for an online business community of leaders who want to position their business for profit. Business evolves at a different level when profit begins and how does your business grow from there? The group is led by Allison Todd, Operations & Digital Growth Strategist. Our members are committed to building a network of referrals, resources, and accountability.