Popular culture heckles the boss, and perhaps rightfully so. We're the asshole with the parking spot, the blundering Michael Scott, or the evil 1%. The truth is that being a boss is oftentimes confusing, scary, and stressful. At times, it downright sucks. But there's an art to it that can only be attained with experience. Here's what I've learned:
  1. 1.
    There are captains. And there are crew.
    Neither is superior, but you can't have one without the other; it's an ecosystem. Some people are meant to be bosses, and some people are best as workers, and everything works out better if everyone knows their role and limitations.
  2. 2.
    The difference between staff and friends.
    This was a hard lesson learned. At first, it was just homies, hanging out, working toward a shared goal. But, as we moved from clubhouse to company, expectations changed and feelings got hurt. On the flipside, just because I get to work alongside these incredible people every day, doesn't mean they would necessarily choose to be around me if I weren't paying 'em. Ouch!
  3. 3.
    No one will care more than you do.
    For almost all of your employees, it's a 9-5. They have their own lives and universes that exist outside the scope of your selfish little project. Can't blame 'em. Can't take it personally. They have their agendas, and you have yours.
  4. 4.
    You can fix attitude, not aptitude.
    No matter how much you invest in or inspire employees, for some of them, there is only so much skill and brainpower they can offer the task at hand. That doesn't mean they couldn't advance in another capacity, or excel working for someone else. But they've hit a wall, and as the cartographer, you either show them a new path or out the exit.
  5. 5.
    Some employees are okay with the bare minimum. Are you okay with that?
    "You know what, Stan, if you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy over there Bryan, why don’t you make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?" Jennifer Aniston in Office Space. If she's expected to do more, than she expects her boss to ask that of her. Some employees choose to opt out of proactivity, because it's safe, because they're not comfortable offering input, because they only know how to follow directions, who knows... Can you deal with it? (I can't)
  6. 6.
    If you're secure, they're secure.
    It's like training a dog or raising a child. If you are in control (or at least provide the illusion of), then everyone - and everything - else falls in line.
  7. 7.
    Listen and learn.
    I prefer to hire people who are better at their jobs than I am, so they can push us forward, and plus, I can gain from their insight. That being said, I've also held almost all of their positions at one point, so I can empathize with their perspective.
  8. 8.
    Some people are cancerous.
    Diagnose them quickly and eradicate them. Nothing spoils the well like a toxic employee. Haters, snobs, coolguys, solo artists, entitled brats, know-it-alls, ego-trippers, credit collectors, and general all-around assholes can clock out. Forever.
  9. 9.
    The grass is always greener.
    I have the best job. But, there are certainly nights where my designers are packing up, walking past my window, and into the open air of freedom that I wonder, "Wow, what is it like to go home and not have to think about this stuff for 12 hours?" When you own your business, your work never ends. Family, friends, and fun - they all fight to make their way into the schedule. It's physically grueling, emotionally taxing, and psychologically maddening. But, this is the life you chose. Remember why.
  10. 10.
    It's about fit.
    I don't believe in "good" or "bad" employees. I believe in compatibility. I've had staffers who failed miserably under my domain, and were resurrected as leaders at the next company. Likewise, I've hired some of the industry's most-decorated, only to have them crumble within my team. It's not just about how skilled or hardworking someone is. The intangibles make the difference. How they vibe with the company culture, introversion / extroversion, emotional intelligence...Again, it's an ecosystem.
  11. 11.
    Keep it fun.
    There's more to life than work. There's more to your legacy than your career.
  12. 12.
    And say, "Thank you."