Elizabeth’s anger and frustration were apparent.  It was also justifiable.  A few employees had just been discovered taking small liberties with inventory.  They were using very poor judgement at best and stealing at worst.

The team members worked hard and brought a lot to the business.  So the gravity of the moment pulled heavily on Elizabeth, and she knew it was time to do something.

Managing her anger would be as difficult as choosing the rights words.  Too reactive and intense (I caught you jerks red handed!) would dissolve any hopes for a redemptive outcome.  Too lax of a response and the team could lose respect for her with unspoken words of passive aggressive behavior and sloppy business practices that could threaten the business.

It was time for Elizabeth to “boss-up”.  But her mind was far from knowing what to say and do, much less how to say and do it.

We’ve encountered our fair share of sloppy practices and dangerous habits in our own store that crept in over time because they were left unchecked. Most of us who own small businesses probably have, if we’re honest with ourselves. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Ultimately the responsibility for any actions that we allow, or disallow, in our stores falls squarely on us as owners. To the point of a popular meme…we have to boss-up.

That does not mean we must be bossy. It means we just have to be willing to BE the boss…the overseer, the leader, the buck-stops-here person…consistently, day by day.

Many times our fear of being too bossy, or sometimes the carnage from having been overly bossy, leaves just enough head trash to keep us from actually BEING the boss.

When that happens we can lose our voice in our very own businesses. And THAT is the most dangerous behavior of all.

You don’t have to be bossy to boss-up. Reaffirm (or establish) what the boundaries of play are. Just like our Olympians must play within the boundaries of their sport, so must our employees.

It may take several conversations over time to get the point across. Rarely do bad habits change on one authoritative edict…especially if they’ve been allowed to form over time in a bossless-vacuum.

Throwing up a sign or sending a snarky email won’t make up for boss-lessness.

We boss-up without being bossy through simple acts of conversation.  Actually talking to your team – directing them away from sloppy business practices calmly…yet persistently firm…one conversation at a time…over time.

You can even try that yet today.