My unofficial title at work is "Resident Boss Lady." Being bossy — or, as they say nowadays thanks to Sheryl Sandberg, possessing “executive leadership skills" — is never something I’ve struggled with. Among women, however, the statistics show I’m not always the norm. That’s not because many women aren’t supremely talented and 100 percent capable of being the boss. It’s largely because of how we are raised and taught to behave at school, by our family and on the job starting from a very young age.
I’m the founder of Cheekys, an $11 million online retail, wholesale, and manufacturing company that makes apparel and jewelry for people who love a country lifestyle. However, our company is based in New Plymouth, Idaho, population 1,538. Finding anyone willing to commute out to work with us can be a real challenge. But over the years, we’ve had some really exceptional employees — as well as some who weren’t ready to fully embrace their potential. Here are some things I’ve noticed women often miss when it comes to achieving a manager mindset.
1. Solve the problem.
As the Resident Boss Lady and CEO of Cheekys, my day is full of hurdles. I don’t want the people I hire to “yes ma’am” me all day long; I hired them because (hopefully) they are smarter than me in some areas and can add real value to my business. I love it when employees point out a problem with our supply chain or shipping methods, especially when they have thought about some potential solutions. That shows real leadership and thoughtfulness.
2. Push back, respectfully.
Don’t tell my husband, but I’m actually not always right. If I’m going off the rails with a hair-brained idea that Cheekys doesn’t have the product or human capacity to execute successfully, I want to hear about it. That doesn’t mean talking to your colleagues behind the boss’s back. It means privately and respectfully offering constructive feedback on why the plan isn’t going to work for you, and some alternate paths forward.
3. Learn all you can.
One of the most annoying parts of my job is when people ask me questions that they could easily Google to find out the answer. The Internet is full of amazing sites (including this one) that offer free advice, tutorials, e-courses and forums where you can ask questions and increase your value to your employer and your team. Being self-motivated to learn all you can about your industry and how to become a manager is a key sign you’re ready to move up the company ladder.
4. Be pretty.
Now this isn’t what you think. As I write about in my book, the concept of being pretty is something my Granny Dee taught me ages ago. Another way of putting it might be: “Suck it up, buttercup!” Be pretty to me means to be kind, be professional, and take the high road. Find a way to smile and don’t let the situation own you.
5. Set some freaking boundaries.
Fran Hauser wrote a great book, The Myth of the Nice Girl, that talks all about this concept, and y’all need to read it ASAP. Because of how many of us are raised, it can be difficult to say no, even when we know better. Setting a boundary, especially if and when you move to manager or owner status, is hugely important. You can be friendly with your colleagues (and you should) but there comes a point where you can’t be friends. This should be obvious, but you also can’t gossip about your employees or the upper management or owners. To earn the respect of people you manage, and who manage you, drawing solid boundaries is key.