Last week, one of my friends and I were having lunch. During our conversation about her work, she asked me, “Well, How Can I Ensure That I’m Being a Good Boss?” Here is what I told her.
- The Boss?: First, drop the word “Boss” from your vocabulary, and don’t be comfortable with your team calling you their boss, and certainly don’t say to anyone that you’re someone else’s Boss. The word is so antiquated that it smacks of cotton plantations and slaves, and those terrible ideas died in the Civil War over a century ago. Unless you happen to be Bruce Springsteen, you don’t really want anyone to think of you as “The Boss.” It would be far better for you to demonstrate some humility and refer to yourself with a more modern handle like leader, manager, director, etc., or just to say “we work together” when someone asks about your relationship with a co-worker. No need to pull rank….
- Listen and Care: Second, every one of us needs to listen to our colleagues and work devilishly hard to understand their motivations and how they win in the business world. Covey taught us to seek first to understand, and I cannot think of a better way to show someone on my work team that I truly care about them and place a high level of importance on a positive outcome for them. Nothing says you care like using a person’s name, and giving them a chance to do the talking. Far too often, we spend most of the time we have together talking, when listening with interest would be so much better. Dig into your conversations with your teammates, and ask them about their pets, their children, their spouses, their aspirations and then sit back and watch your relationship deepen and broaden before your eyes. All you have to do is to think for a minute about what you don’t know about them, that you’d like to know and keep asking questions until you feel you’ve established some understanding.
- Never Manipulate: Third, as we work with others, we have to get real and show that we can be honest with them and avoid being manipulative or hurtful, as we’re honest. As a manager, you are going to have to lead some difficult conversations with your team, and nothing will earn their trust faster than leveling with them, and being honest about what you see and what you think, without being an a__ and manipulating situations or being brutally honest. Great managers and leaders challenge their people all the time, and the best of them are able to do so without needing to engage in pandering, manipulation, or cheerleading. Just shoot for consistent candor, and you will be on the right path.
- Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide: Finally, recognize that you need to seek out the opinions of others as a leader, so do it. And recognize that guiding your team is one of the most important roles you possess as their leader. Give them guidance, good, strong, consistent guidance that matches your own personal values and the core values of your organization. You can’t be spotty with this, it needs to be constant and as reliable as the mail, or your credibility will suffer. Encourage people to speak their minds and throw their best ideas out on the table, and reward individuals who are great teammates and quickly correct any behavior on your team that is artificial or generates negative conflict.
Obviously, there are many more things that go into becoming a good manager or a good leader, but this is a tidy little start. At the finish line, we all get paid to deliver results and the best way I know how is always to ensure that the people side of the business is well tended to, and well cared for. When you get the people side of the business correct, that leads to good things everywhere else. What about you? What do YOU recommend to someone who wishes to guarantee that they can be a good leader?