When you start your day, how do you think you should go about doing your job as “the boss”?
If you’re like most business owners and/or entrepreneurs, chances are you don’t have a rubric or framework for your day, you just go at it. When you have 639 items on your to do list, who has time to think about what you should or shouldn’t do as “the boss”?
However, as you well know, what we see is what we get. So, if you don’t have a framework for what you should be doing as a boss, it’s hard to actually be a great boss. And that’s a problem. Why? Because if you’re not being a great boss, you’re hindering the leverage that you should be getting out of your people (i.e. you’re sub-optimizing—and why do that when you’re actually paying people to do work?).
So, if you’d like to be a better boss who’s able to produce better results while, simultaneously, increasing the morale and commitment to your team, then you’ll want to follow each of the following five “Boss Rules.”
I. They Lead Each Person the Way That Person Wants to Be Lead
One of the major mistakes the vast majority of leaders make is they tend to lead everyone the same way, which is usually the way they like to be led.
For example, how often have you heard someone say, “Hire great people and then get out of the way.” Sounds like great advice … if you’re hiring a group of NTs (Myers Briggs) … which I am (NT = Intuitive Thinker). We love it when someone says, “Take that hill” and then gets out of the way.
However, that’s not such great advice if you’re hiring, for example, a SJ (Sensor Judger). SJs want clear direction. They want to be told exactly what’s expected and even better, the steps to take to get there.
So, while an NT leader may feel like they’re being a great boss by “getting out of the way” they’re actually not being a great boss (this was one of the “dumb tax” lessons I had to learn back in the early days of my pastoral career).
Treating everyone the same way is just bad advice. Great bosses know their people and then give each person the kind of leadership that person requires. If someone requires a lot of direction, they give it. If another person hates someone giving them direction, they don’t. If someone else needs face-to-face time, they give it to them. If another person needs lots of verbal encouragement, they give it to them.
In other words, whatever kind of leadership an employee needs, great bosses lead them that way.
So, how are you doing? Do you lead each person the same way? Do you lead them like you like to be lead? Or do you lead each person in the way they like to be led?
II. They Cast Vision Continually
If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you could probably guess this would be on my top five list of what great bosses do. Why? Because it’s another great leverage point. People who are inspired simply produce at a higher level.
If you take two groups of people with similar skills sets and experiences and one group has high morale and the other has low morale, the high morale group will outperform the low morale group every time (and I wouldn’t be surprised by a 3:1 margin).
Simply put, vision leaks … every day (and frankly, every hour). A once a year or once a month vision message just won’t do. You need to cast vision every day all day long.
You can read more about it here and here, but basically, you want to use every conversation as a chance to cast vision. Help your people see the vision and how they relate to it. Help them see the progress they’re making. Help them see the work they’re doing in a bigger context.
For example, when you want to say, “Great job!” don’t just say, “Great job!” link your encouragement to vision.
“Mary, I really appreciate all the time and effort you put into the copy for this marketing piece. You really did put in that, “little bit extra,” that I always talk about because it goes right to the heart of our core value on excellence. So, great job! You’ve become a key player on our team and while I know it’s easy to get lost in the work and think you’re just writing copy—what you’re really doing is writing words that will sell and that means that lots of people here will have job security because of what you just did. You’re literally helping to put food on the table for the families of our employees and you’re helping our potential customers take the step they need to take to solve their problem. All around these words that you are crafting for our marketing pieces are affecting people’s lives. So thank you for taking the time to go the extra mile! You’re a ROCK STAR!”
What employee wouldn’t want to hear that? So, how are you doing at casting vision every day?
III. They Listen More Than Talk
Average leaders talk. Great leaders listen.
Most people think that to lead you have to be the most talkative person in the room. But if you want to create leverage, you want to harness the most brains. You want your people to think on their own and bring you their best ideas. You don’t want to create dependent people, you want to create independent people who are willing to collaborate.
How do great bosses do this?
They become great questioners!
- So, what do you think?
- What have you noticed?
- What have you heard from others?
- What evidence do you have of that?
- Can you give me an example? Etc.
And when they ask you or seem stumped, ask them a question back. Remember, whoever asks the questions is the one who’s in control of the conversation.
So, challenge them. What do you know so far? What have you tried that’s worked? What have you tried that hasn’t? What potential causes could have created this problem? Etc. Keep asking. Keep questioning. Keep listening.
Then, and only then, should you share your ideas and solutions.
So, how are you doing at listening more than talking?
IV. They Remove Obstacles
I don’t know why more writers on leadership don’t discuss this issue but it’s critical for you to do if you want to be a great boss.
Every job, task, project, objective, initiative, etc. has obstacles. If they didn’t, they’d already be accomplished.
Your job, as a leader, is to produce results through other people.
So, if your job is to produce results through other people and they all have obstacles that they need to breakthrough or overcome in order to obtain the result they’re responsible for achieving, doesn’t it make sense that one of the best ways for you to create more leverage is to help remove those obstacles? Absolutely!
For example, let’s say that you have a team of engineers working on a software project and they have a milestone that has to be reached by the end of the month and you know that the project is being held up by one programmer who’s working overtime and can’t possibly get the work done this week, what could you do to help overcome that obstacle?
- You could reassign someone from another team.
- You could authorize some additional overtime.
- You could authorize hiring an outsourcer.
- You could even set up a system that would kick in whenever a problem like this arises, etc.
What’s important to note is that removing obstacles doesn’t mean you’re doing the work or that you’re trying to remove responsibility from the manager or the employee to get their work done. You’re simply looking from your position as the owner/leader and seeing what you can do to change the system to make sure the obstacles are removed and the results can be obtained
Sometimes removing an obstacle is making a phone call. Sometimes it’s offering advice. Sometimes it’s asking a question. Sometimes it’s authorizing an additional expenditure. Sometimes it’s hiring additional people. Sometimes it’s helping resolve conflict between two people or two departments. And sometimes it’s firing a poor performer (which, by the way, makes everyone else on the team happy).
So how are you doing at removing obstacles from your people? And what obstacle(s) should you remove this week?
V. The Model What They Want From Others
“Do what I say not what I do,” is some of the worst advice ever given. It’s total hogwash. People do what people see, period. In other words …
- If you want your people to be lifelong learners, model learning
- If you want your people to value excellence, model excellence
- If you want your people to be creative, model creativity
- If you want your people to bring you solutions rather than problems, model solution bringing
- If you want your people to respond positively to constructive criticism, model humility and accept critique graciously from them
- If you want your people to be positive and upbeat, model positivity
- If you want your people to execute fast, model fast execution
- If you want your people to create systems, model systems creation
- If you want your people to deliver on what they promise, model hitting all your KPIs
- If you want your people to not be clock watchers, model sticking around until the job is done
Great bosses know that non-verbals always trump verbals. So, rather than make long speeches about what they want, great bosses simply model what they want from their team members and surprise surprise, that’s what they get.
So, how are you doing at modeling what you want from your people? Where are you strong? Where are you weak? And what needs to change this week?
If you want to be a great boss, you have to come up with a framework for what a great boss does that works for you. Your framework might have more than five ideas. Or you might have a different set of five than this list. But, if you don’t have a list, I’d encourage you to start with these five.
In other words, if you want to be a great boss, make sure that everyday you …
- Lead each person like they like to be led
- Cast vision continually
- Listen more than you talk
- Remove obstacles
- Model what you want from your people
If you simply and consistently do those five things, there’s absolutely no question, you’ll be a great boss!
To your accelerated success!
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