By Shawn Hessinger
Leona Helmsley. Donald Trump. Mark Zuckerberg. You know their names. To some, they're the epitome of the nightmare boss, associated with tyrannical tantrums, boardroom antics, and for threatening employees when things don't go their way.
As a small business owner, you didn't get into the game to crush egos or smash office printers. You got in because you had a passion for what you do better than anyone else. But it's not just you anymore. You have a team behind you. And it's your job to manage it.
But your team's not responding. Now what?
Now, you act like the boss. You stop walking on eggshells with your staff, and start adopting positive leadership practices that will inspire excellence. You're not there to be your employees' best friend; you're there to manage them, and to grow your company.
You're there to lead.
If you're unsteady on your new managerial legs, here are a few suggestions to help you build the right team.
1. Stop Promoting People
Want to give a crappy reward to someone who's good at her job? Elevate her to a managerial position where she'll get to do less of what she loves to do. The idea of running a flat company is gaining street cred among scrappy startup types because it works. It removes that old, inefficient managerial hierarchy where in-field experts are banished to corner offices, and rewards employees instead with things they really want -- more days off, more control, and a greater chance to do what they love. Don't reward with titles; do it with freedom.
2. Don't Involve Employees in Sensitive Company Matters
You're running a small business, not a daycare center. There's no reason for you to get mushy and reveal your darkest fears to your staff, especially if those fears concern your business. (Consult a business networking site for that.) The only thing worse than worrying about your own business is being forced to be worry about a business someone else founded.
If you're looking to your staff for emotional support, stop. If the company is in trouble, if there's a partner shakeup in the works, if you're unsure of how to be a manager, fake it until you make it and keep quiet about it internally. Filling employees in on financial issues or things that don't concern them will distract, frighten, demotivate them, or make them question you as their boss. You take care of the business; let them focus on their jobs. If they wanted to run a business, they'd start one. You better hope they don't.
3. Get Rid of Dead Weight
Small businesses are like families. The only difference is that in business, you can divorce the people who hold you back. Hiring and firing is tricky for small business owners because they let emotions get in the way. You get attached to team members, and become reluctant to let them go. Do not hold on to employees for sentimental reasons. You're their boss, not their mother. Holding on to an employee that doesn't fit into the company not only holds that person back from finding a job where he can excel, it's demoralizing to the rest of your staff. Non-performing people create resentment and mediocrity. The moment you know someone cannot do what you need them to do, fire them. No exceptions.
4. Get Comfortable Acting Like a Leader
If you want to cultivate a work environment where employees are comfortable making tough decisions and demanding innovation, you go first. Lead by example, even if it sometimes means disrupting the status quo. Mark Zuckerberg knew that Facebook needed a News Feed to keep up with Twitter and the microblogging trend. He didn't care that it upset users, angered app developers, and changed the mindset of the site. He knew it needed to be there, and he stuck to his decision. And it paid off. Every decision you make doesn't have to be correct, but you need to have the confidence in yourself to make them, and to fail faster.
The strength of your small business will be determined by the strength of your leadership. If you don't have the stomach for tough calls, maybe you can get your old job back.
Shawn Hessinger is the community manager of BizSugar, an online community of small business owners.