Monday, January 02, 2012

What Kind of Boss Are You?

I was having dinner with my cousin a couple of weeks back, and we were talking about work. She had moved out here to the West Coast for a job - what she felt was her dream job. Unfortunately, as she spoke, it became apparent that she wasn't loving it - so I asked why.

"It's terrible, actually..." she replied, "I have the job that I've always wanted, but I can't stand the people I work for."

As we talked further, certain things that she said jumped out at me - things that echoed what I had found myself (as both an employee and an employer), and things I had read (like the fantastic "Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni and "Good to Great" by Jim Collins). Now, I'll be the first to acknowledge that not everyone is a great employee - there are going to be some who hate everything you do no matter what approach you take (this is a separate topic - but the long and short of it is move these people along as quickly as possible) but when there's a problem with (an) employee(s) I will always take a moment to look at myself, first, and see if the issue stems from something I could/should have been doing differently.

What I've narrowed it all down to is my own, completely unscientific "Top Six" list - the top six actions/attributes that I think we all need to possess and demonstrate in management and, before assuming the problem is with the employee, to use as a metric for our own performance.

6. Leadership
You're a team. Yes, you are the captain, but you're a team nonetheless, and they need to know that although you call the shots - you're with them and have their back.

5. Credibility
Do we know what we're talking about? Do we practice what we preach? There can (and should) be people on the team that are better at certain things than you are (hopefully that's why you hired them) - but that doesn't mean it's okay to know nothing. Stay up to date on everything related to the business.

4. Consistency
In implementation, in attitude, in relationships. Yes, sometimes you need to "bring down the hammer" - but you're far more effective if you do so without losing the plot... that just becomes a rant. Rant too often, and people simply tune you out. You need to be a steady influence: playing favorites, highs and lows in energy, moving targets and goals without warning or explanation - these can all lead to an instability in your team.

3. Adaptability
The above point notwithstanding - know when to bend. You're not always right, and times/situations change. Be savvy enough to know when to stay consistent, and when to adapt.

2. Appreciation
This is a huge one. Daily, sincere recognition of how important the team is and what they're doing for you goes a long way. In fact, simply thanking them for some small thing they did to help ("Hey, thanks for taking that garbage out") can have incredible effects on morale. Plus (going back to credibility) - on the occasion when you do need to offer less than favorable feedback, you're far more likely to have a receptive audience.

1. Humility
You're not the best. You're not always right. You're not infallible, and you're not perfect. Continually strive for this (Nike had a slogan once that stuck with me: "Always train like you're number 2"), but don't let your ego get away from you. And when you're wrong - be big enough to admit it. You'd be amazed how far this can take you.


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