How to Be a Kinder Boss

If you're self-employed, you're your own boss, right? Here's how to be a better one. |

I kind of love the rush I get, filling out forms that want to know who employs me. You know? Confronted by this: Employer: ______________________. 

And in my head, I sing out: Oh, I'm self-employed! I work for myself! I'm a savvy little boss lady! I've hired myself to work for no pay for about nine years, that's the kind of boss I am.

I might, occasionally, have little nervous breakdowns about it.

Or, I should say, I used to. 

It's only recently that I've fully realized the implications of that. I'm my own boss.

Which means that I have the power to shape my days. I decide how I think about work. I set the emotional environment in my "office." I decide what everyone on my team does--and by "my team," I mean myself, wearing all the hats that every writer (and every self-employed person) must wear.

I'm the boss, the full committee (from idea-maker to skeptic), every level of worker. I'm the marketing department, the intern, the fetcher-of-coffee, and the janitor. 

Right? But the boss--the boss sets the agenda, the feel, the pace.

Here's the truth (and you've probably guessed it already): For a lot of years, I was a pretty awful boss. 

I figured that to make my team run well, I needed discipline, restrictions, deadlines, discipline, hard work, high expectations, and a lot more discipline. 

For some reason, my team kept burning out.


Is anyone out there like me?

If so, a word of advice: Don't do this.

Just ... don't.

It's an understandable trap. I mean, you read these amazing novels and then you look at your own prose. And your fledgling work-in-progress is a pretty mixed bag. A lot of crud, and then some wonderful parts that make your heart lift right out of your chest ... followed by, yep, more crud.

It's an automatic response to want to whip that mess into shape. And maybe whip yourself into shape along with it.

But the funny thing is, whips don't work especially well. 

About a year ago, some pretty crazy circumstances hit my life. I became so exhausted that I couldn't work, I couldn't do anything. Really. Anything. 

It took a while to get back on my feet, but when I did, I realized that a terribly strict boss just wasn't going to cut it. Out of necessity, I became a really kind and understanding boss instead.

Guess what. My writing life got a whole lot happier. And the weird side effect: My writing TOTALLY improved as well.

Crazy, right? Being kinder to yourself. Who would have thought. Sounds like everyone who's talking about self-care these days... well, they might be on to something.

I still have a long way to go before kindness becomes my home base, but I've learned a lot. And it's been so worth it.

Want to renovate your own self-management style? (Don't wait for a total breakdown!) Here are some of the qualities of a kinder boss:

1. A kind boss is not a pushover. Okay, so kind doesn't mean stupid. They know when you're full of crap, and when you're being honest. So, probably you can't go watch TV all during your writing time. But on the flip side: you are definitely allowed to go take a walk to collect your thoughts. 

2. A kind boss wants you to grow. Both as a writer and as a person. So, they're not really interested in beating you down just for the heck of it. 

3. A kind boss realizes that you have a life outside of work. Extenuating circumstances? Yep, they happen. A good boss knows that. They let you off the hook when something major comes up, or they help you find a way to work around it.

4. But a kind boss does expect you to do your work. And they'll gently push you to do your best. Accountability isn't a bad thing.

5. A kind boss does not write UGGGGGH in the margin of your work-in-progress. Ever. (Um... whoops.)

6. A kind boss knows the difference between a healthy challenge and an impossible stretch. This can be a hard one to figure out. But after some testing, the kind boss understands when a task is hard-but-doable. Or when the task is really just out for blood. Good to know the difference between those two.

What do you think? Any of these traits resonate with you? What's on your good boss list?

Wanna keep reading? Check out The Truth about those Interruptions and All Marathons Have a Finish Line.

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