Thursday, September 5, 2013


I sat down to write a new post last night when I realized: I am tired of writing about the store. So you got my thoughts on communion instead, and now here I am, a day later, making up for lost time.

When I was a little girl, I used to make up all kinds of imaginary games for me and my brother to play. We often dragged our cousins into the fun, requiring intense dedication to our own Boxcar children mysteries and orphan train scenes.

I was the oldest, and the role of boss came naturally. (My mother, by the way, insists I was never a bossy child. I was, simply, "in control." Her words, not mine. I'm sure my three younger counterparts would beg to differ.) 

The idea, then, that I might be a boss one day has always been in the back of my mind. I pursued leadership roles all throughout high school and college, and for the most part, I loved them all. I thrived under the pressure. I liked being busy, loved solving problems. It felt like those roles -- even the difficult ones -- were made for me.

Fast forward to my 27th year, and the leadership role I've been given is not just for practice. This is not my high school or college newspaper staff. This is a small business in a small town, and it is dependent on me for financial success. 

At the store, I run a staff of two people. Two people, and I feel like I've never done something so difficult in my entire life.

I hosted my first official staff meeting this week. I stayed up well past midnight, prepping color-coded handouts. I left my house an hour early, picked up a dozen doughnuts, and prayed for success. 

Then only one of my two staff members showed up, and I wound up bringing 10 doughnuts home to Jordan. (The other two, I ate.)

Head, meet wall.

Just what kind of boss am I supposed to be? Hard-nosed and tough? Miranda Priestly with an iron fist? Lou Grant with a heart of gold? Elle Woods with her pink scented paper and pastries for everyone? I honestly don't know anymore. 

Of all the challenges I thought I'd face while owning the store, transforming into a boss was never one of them. I have, after all, been practicing for decades. I am awesome at doling out schedules and coordinating plans and making agendas. I am super at telling people what to do and when to do it and how. I am comfortable solving problems and working under deadlines. (I am not so good at rolling with the punches, which, as it turns out, is pretty crucial to being an entrepreneur. I'm working on it.)

But the people I've bossed around in the past have known me well. As a sister and a cousin and a wife, my bossiness is oft-teased, but just as often appreciated. As editor of the newspaper, I worked my way up the ranks, earning the respect of my peers. They trusted me, even liked me. We had this mutual respect thing going. 

I've never had to manage a staff I didn't know. 

Where's the rulebook for that? 

Do you know what it's like to prepare for a staff meeting where only one person shows up? Do you know what it's like to have your hot now Krispy Kreme donuts rejected by your team? 

It stinks.

Tina Fey did not prepare me for this. Lean In did not prepare me for this. Being an eldest child with natural overachieving tendencies did not prepare me for this. 

In one month, I'll get to try this again. We'll have our second staff meeting, and my hope is -- after a rather difficult phone call -- the entire staff will show up this time. I may try to bring doughnuts again, I may not. 

The only thing I really know how to do is keep plodding along, to keep reminding myself this is doable. I can do this. I can be a boss. I can problem solve and delegate. I can make color-coded agendas and manage store calendars. I'm getting better at rolling with the flow; I'm learning -- out of necessity -- to be more assertive and firm. 

Respect has to be earned, and perhaps these are just the lessons I'm learning while earning it. 

They are hard, but I'm pretty sure, after a summer like this, I can do hard things.


Elizabeth Dean said...

I'd probably reject your KK doughnuts too, even though I really like you. I've always been a Dunkin' girl, myself.

Hailey Marie said...

"Head, meet wall." Hilarious but so true, and oh how I feel your pain! After coordinating, planning, and rehearsing TWO semi-failed staff meetings (yes, complete with a 3-page handout describing our company culture and why everyone should believe they have the best job in the world... it may as well have been strawberry-scented) over the past few months I am constantly asking the same questions. The truth is that there is no easy answer. No secret password, no five step program... you said it best, "respect has to be earned"... and more often, learned. Love this crazy journey.

francy said...

I was completely insulted, for you, at the one that didn't show up.

I trust you have a good evil eye? You would have learned that from your mother.

P.S. I think you could do with just half a dozen.

Sabrina said...

"They are hard, but I'm pretty sure, after a summer like this, I can do hard things."
I needed to read those words. You are already a good boss. Staff issues are guaranteed. But you will build the relationships. And then watch the change flourish:)