“Be your own boss.” How could something that sounds so right be so wrong?
When you emerged from full-time education, all starry-eyed with dreams of your future job, you kinda expected to become the boss of something, somewhere.
When you protested, “You’re not the boss of me!” to your parents, teachers or overbearing friends, you kinda figured you were the best choice for that gig.
And when you took your first serious steps in business — whether your own business or somebody else’s — you kinda thought life would be cooler with you calling the shots.
Here’s the thing: of course you’re the boss of you. Can I force you out of bed at 5:00 a.m. or make you stay late filing paperwork on a Friday night, even if you refuse? Nope. Because you’re the boss of you.
So who can get you to do that stuff? Only you can. That’s the problem.
Being your own boss is easy, but being your own good employee is hard. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
You might think there’s a world of difference between being an entrepreneur and working in the type of employment people pointedly describe as a J.O.B., but they’re both the same at heart. No matter whether you get instructions from above or devise your own plans, you have to own your role to make it work for you.
How to Think Like an Owner
The most important thing about anything you own is its value. So, what’s your job worth to you? Look beyond your pay and consider other aspects of value, too, from current satisfaction to promotion prospects to future bragging rights. All these things are adjustable if you become the owner of your job.
Ownership is simple, really. It means you take it upon yourself to do the best job you can, even when nobody’s watching. It means thinking about how your work affects other people and what you can do to work together better. It means believing in continuous improvement for everybody’s sake.
Need a real-life example? Okay. The women who cleaned the bathrooms at my old workplace — they were owners. They optimized their cleaning routine until it was super-fast and super-hygienic. They knew what times of day the bathrooms got busiest, and how many stalls could be closed for cleaning without causing a huge queue of waiting visitors. They arranged vacation cover amongst themselves and presented their plans to the manager as a done deal that just needed a signature. They also smiled a lot.
Bathroom cleaning may not be your ambition, but those ladies won awards for their work. That’s the power of ownership: it’s not what you do that matters, but how you take responsibility for making life better.
What’s Your Boss-to-Success Ratio?
We all have limits on the amount of responsibility we can handle before we implode. Everybody’s different, so try this simple quiz to find out what suits you best. There are three quick questions, and all you have to do is choose the most appropriate of three potential answers. When you’re done, I’ve got some totally non-scientific advice for you.
Question 1: When you wake up in the morning the first thing you check is…
A. The time.
C. Your business email.
Question 2: When you feel unwell on a work day, you…
A. Take the day off.
B. Take a week off to recover — might as well max out your “sick days” while you’ve got a good excuse!
C. Show up and do your best, but take extra rest breaks.
Question 3: It’s 11:00 p.m. and there’s a problem with a customer transaction. You are…
A. Watching TV and won’t know about the problem until tomorrow morning.
B. Busy gossiping about the customer, the problem and whose fault it all is.
C. Already on it. You’ve spoken to people, diagnosed the problem, and a solution is on its way.
How Did You Score?
Mostly As: You’re normal! (No offense.) You expect your work to start in the morning, finish at quittin’ time and not intrude too much into the rest of your life. Too much responsibility makes you stressed, but too little leaves you bored. To balance the boss and the employee in you, take ownership of small day-to-day tasks and make minor improvements one step at a time.
Mostly Bs: You have a low boss-to-success ratio. The more you think about your responsibilities, the less you feel like dealing with them all by your lonesome. To build success, find an accountability buddy — someone whose opinion matters to you so that you won’t want to let them down. And to avoid imploding under pressure; train yourself to ask for what you need immediately when you get stuck.
Mostly Cs: You’re the owner of your career. You thrive on responsibility because it gives you the opportunity to achieve great things. Just be sure you’re not taking on extra responsibilities purely to stay busy — a good employee (that’s you!) knows when their plate is full, and a good boss (you again!) won’t overfill it.
Success isn’t about being your own boss. It’s about owning yourself.
So, now that you own this big heap of awesome, what are you gonna do with it?
Sophie Lizard is a freelance writer fascinated by the psychology of work. She also teaches fellow writers how to make real money blogging — grab her free Ultimate List of Better-Paid Blogging Gigs to get started.