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One of the strangest parts about being your own boss is that there’s no one to hold you accountable for your personal and professional development.

No one, that is, other than you.

Being your own boss is more than just running the numbers and choosing your hours. You have to be a good manager to yourself, too. You have to know how to push yourself to grow, because without personal development, your motivation will die away. 

“One of the things we see new business owners struggle with the most is self-management,” says Andrew Cooke , Strategic Director at co-working and workspace provider Bruntwood Works. “Some people struggle to focus without a manager to report to, while others find they can’t switch off because all the responsibility is on their shoulders.

“The businesses that we see succeed all share one thing: they’re all run by people who know how to be a great boss to themselves, first and foremost.”

Here’s how you can be the best boss you’ve ever had — even if you’ve never done it before.

Map out your strengths and weaknesses

When it’s just you, there’s no one else to carry things when the road gets rough. It’s crucial that you identify your strengths — and, more importantly, your weaknesses — as early as possible so they don’t trip you up later on.

The problem? When you’re your own boss, it’s difficult to give and receive feedback: after all, you’re incredibly biased. 

The best thing that you can do is get in touch with someone you’ve worked with in the past. It needs to be someone you can trust; a friend that pulls their punches won’t help you change.

If you’re finding it difficult to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses, here are some starting points:

  • Your level of self-discipline
  • Your time-management skills
  • Your communication skills
  • Your ability to focus
  • Your ability to prioritize

Go through each of these points and ask your friend to be brutally honest in their assessment. Your biggest weaknesses are the ones you don’t see in yourself, so if you think you’re a good communicator but your colleague disagrees, you need to know ASAP.

Set goals

Once you’ve got all your strengths and weaknesses mapped out, you need a game plan to work on them. It’s not enough to say “I’ll work on my time-management skills”, because there’s no clear next step. Instead, you need to set a goal.

Goals are vital in business because they provide a benchmark against which to measure your progress

The best way to create a useful goal is by using the SMART method: they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. 

When you’re first starting out, the best goals you can set are those that address your personal weaknesses while helping your business grow. Here’s an example of a SMART goal that does both:

By 1st April, I will improve my public speaking skills by delivering a presentation on my specialism to an audience of business leaders.

The above goal allows you to work on one of your weaknesses — in this case, communication — while creating new opportunities for business relationships; that is, in the audience you’ll be presenting to.

And since you need to achieve it by 1st April, it’s time-bound, too.

Review your progress

There’s no point in putting goals in place if you aren’t going to look back and assess your progress. Schedule check-ins with yourself; if you’ve set quarterly goals, make them monthly so you can see how much progress you’ve made. That way, you’ll spot if you’re falling behind with plenty of time to turn it around.

If you don’t achieve your goals, don’t worry. Focus instead on the progress you have made. The fact that you aimed for a goal will usually stretch you, so regardless of whether or not you achieved it, you’ll see some development.

The biggest win that comes out of reviewing your progress is that it boosts your self-esteem. Starting a business is beset with failings and difficulties, and dwelling on them can eat away at your will to push on. But seeing the small ways in which you’ve grown is sometimes the boost you need to replenish your motivation — and achieve that next breakthrough.

Be the boss you always wanted

Becoming your own boss can certainly be daunting — but it’s also liberating. 

If your list of things your bosses could have done better is as long as your arm, now is your chance to do it the way you always thought it should be done. You can make the decisions your previous employers didn’t. You can prioritise areas of your personal development that, in the past, weren’t seen as important to others.

So go out there and be the best boss you’ve ever had!

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