We Need Bosses - How to be a Good One

Mentor WEB SMLManagement fads come and go and even the most “credentialed” management gurus latch onto some of them. One of those fads is the idea of having a “bossless” workplace. There are companies that tout that as their modus operandi. For example, the online retailer Zappos, the gaming company Valve, and Elon Musk’s little car company Tesla. Does the bossless model really work?

On Closer Observation

Digging a little deeper into some organizations touting the bossless model, you’ll find cracks in the veneer, problems with productivity, and chaos resulting from market changes.  In the case of Apple under Steve Job’s leadership, Mr. Jobs wore the mantle of being a near dictator and Elon Musk bears the label of micromanager. There is no doubt that every management fad has some pearl of goodness. For example, moving from working conditions of the industrial age and the lack of equality for workers in the pre 1960s. However, solid, common sense, fundamentals that have been in place, and are still working, are not to be thrown into the shedder.

Why We Need Bosses

Someone ultimately must take responsibility. While people can be leaders at any level, are organizations willing to send every employee to leadership training? That could be a real budget buster. Would it be wise to allow everyone to allocate resources willy nilly? That could cause a real drain on profits. What about strategic planning? While it is good to be transparent, everyone has opinions, ideas, and perspectives on any topic. Not every employee has the business experience or expertise to address every business challenge. This is especially true of more complex and rapidly changing areas such as economics, technology, politics, and forecasting.

Who knows better how to train individuals and teams about how to implement tasks in such a way that move the organization forward to meet strategic goals? Moreover, someone must be responsible for the development of individuals. This takes in depth knowledge of each team member’s areas of expertise and their strength and weaknesses in achieving development goals. I don’t think Fred, the young, recent graduate is up to the task.

In fact, take a moment and think about if you are a job seeker, or if you are thinking of making a position or career change, how important the competency of your next boss would be to you. Remember, the better questions you ask of the person you will be working with during your interviewing phase can reveal a lot more about his or her management style. This information will reveal a lot about what you can expect in terms of your treatment, how they will manage you, and how they might develop you. This is especially important if you have plans to grow your career. Hmmmmmm..

How to Be a Good Boss

OK, now that all you bosses out there know that Corporate America is going to keep you, let’s look at how to be a good or better boss.

Speaking of development…

  1. Develop Individual and Teams – Your entire team’s development rest in large part on providing quality feedback daily. This is not as big a chore as it seems. Coach your subordinates to coach their subordinates on this same strategy. As a leader, encourage teams to develop a team charter so that everyone is familiar with expectations, goals, and culture. Don’t be afraid to intervene in team conflict when necessary and be a good coach and teacher. Ensure that there is a solid follow-up program to any training programs involving your reports.
  2. Listen – People need to feel like they’ve been heard. In fact, they need to BE heard. Listening costs you nothing but a little bit of time. If one of your reports is a constant complainer, coach them to help realize that they need to come with a solution. In fact, problem solving efforts and active listening should be part of your culture or the team charter.
  3. Communicate Clearly – Listening is part of communication, and so is the other side of the coin – delivering the message. Be clear, concise, ask people to paraphrase to ensure clear understanding. Further, communicating your vison clearly, helps support employee engagement.
  4. Give Up Your Ivory Tower

Come down and work with your employees. Let them see firsthand that you know how to do things but are still willing to get your hands dirty. This strategy also allows you to observe your direct reports communication styles, behavioral styles, their strengths and weaknesses. This will provide you with excellent observations for development purposes.

  1. Be a Good Coach – Many organizations fail to hire or train managers with this skill. Complicating this effort are managers who feel that employee development is not in their job description. I can agree that employees should take on some responsibility for personal, professional, and career development, however, everyone needs a mentor or coach. Further, having good coaching skills makes the job of managing much easier and it helps you help the organization in bringing up leaders.
  2. Stay Informed – This means keep up with trends. Part of your job as a manager is to not only assist your people and accomplish goals through them, but to ensure that the organization survives. Keeping up with market trends, innovative technologies, economic developments, the progress of your reports, and the state of the organization. In doing so, you will “naturally” form networks that benefit your own career as well.

None of this is rocket science. The key is to convey the vision and projects to your people, then get out their way and let them do their work. Be approachable, listen, and be a continuous learner. This can help you get out of your own way to develop your own goals. Support your organization. If this is not possible, it may be time to go be a good boss who is needed elsewhere.

Thank you for reading this blog. Let’s have a conversation around some ideas to help you become an even better boss. Let's get started

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Leadership,, EQ,, Management