Seth Godin asks yet another astute question on his blog this week: Do you need a boss?
Here’s his answer:
You don’t realize how much you need a boss until you don’t have one. Bosses don’t always do the following, especially when they’re not very good bosses, but here’s what we know about good bosses:
Bosses organize your time for you.
Bosses decide what’s urgent.
Bosses give you cover when you work on something stupid (“she told me to!”)
Bosses pay you even when the client doesn’t honor the invoice.
Bosses can be sued.
Bosses create deadlines, and stick with them.
Bosses make sure you show up in the morning.
Bosses pay for the Postits.
Bosses give you someone to complain about.
Bosses carve up the work and give you just that piece you signed up to do.
Bosses give you a role model. (Sometimes one to work against, but that’s a different story).
The main thing a boss does, though, is give you the momentum you need to get through the stuff that takes perseverance. The main thing that ends the career of a Free Agent is the lack of a hand pushing on the back, someone handing out assignments and waiting for the deliverables. Who keeps you going when you don’t feel like doing it?
If you don’t have a boss, you may need to invent one.
There’s a lot of truth to everything on that list… but I think that free-agents might be better served by handing over a chunk of their responsibilities to a manager, rather than a boss.
The job of a good manager – no, a great manager – is to take care of most of those things for you. They can manage your day-to-day activities, your PR, “brand you”, your career’s direction, your clients… They deal with all of the things that are necessary to keep your business healthy while giving you the freedom to actually do the work that your business is famous for. Actors and musicians have them for a reason. Politicians have them too (they’re called chiefs of staff). Thought leaders and business world superstars (er… consultants) need them as well (and no, executive secretaries and personal assistants aren’t the same thing at all).
These aren’t yes-men. They’re your wiz-bang personal executives. The trusty magicians who make it possible for you to do what you do best by keeping you on track and making sure that the machine that is your professional life performs like the fine-tuned high-performance machine it ought to be.
The other option, if a real life manager isn’t enough, could be to create a virtual boss service that allows independent business folks to create a custom boss online (yes, you get to dress and name them), and then design the kind of relationship you want to have with them. Maybe you decide they need to send you five or six condescending emails every day… or maybe you’d rather have them send you kudos instead. Whatever works for you. (For a small fee, I could even have an actor call you at odd times to request a progress report or remind you to call a client.) The beauty of this kind of service is that your virtual boss could be as abusive or as inspiring as you want to make them. Could be fun… and a sweet tool for those of you who need that little extra push.
Hmmm… Food for thought.
I’m tempted to go on a tangent and discuss the difference between managers and leaders, but I’ll save that for another day. 🙂