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like a boss
Some of us seek out management; most have management thrust upon us.
It’s a curious assumption, when you examine it, that being good at something automatically means you’ll be good at inspiring, organising and leading others to do it too. People are often too busy to think about how their management style shapes their environment and corporate culture. But it’s worth considering. A great start comes from the lovely Kim McKay, who recently said simply that she tries to “create the kind of place I want to work in.”

Here are few of the things I’ve learned – from my own mistakes and those of others – along the way. Oh, and I’ve labelled them neatly with song lyrics for easier recall my own amusement. (Ten internet points if you can identify the songs).

1) too much information
Yes, knowledge is power, but withholding knowledge to retain power speaks of weak leadership. Giving your team as much context as they need to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing encourages them to be proactive (sorry) in solving problems, and to feel empowered. They probably don’t need to know the intricacies of board politics, P&L or whatever else it’s your job to shoulder, decipher and make actionable.
There’s also a fine balance between encouraging staff to seek support for personal problems which affect them at work and becoming their best mate.  Or, as a former boss of mine demonstrated, trying to bond with your team by sharing way, way, way too much information about your personal life (I’m still scarred by her revelations). Your staff have got friends of their own. That’s not what they come to work for.

2) promise you will remember / that promises last forever
As an employee, you’re contracting to make good on what you said you could do in your job application. As a manager, you’re contracting to do what you say you’ll do. If your staffer isn’t performing as you’d anticipated and your workload is heavier as a result, that’s a problem you have to manage: that’s your job. It doesn’t mean all the things you’d contracted to deliver can be postponed or axed. Lead by example, not negative reinforcement. Delivering training, reviews and so on are not performance dependent.
A corporate culture in which management routinely fail to honour agreements to staff (from turning up to scheduled meetings to OT bonuses) is one in which everyone breaks promises. And the knock-on effect is that that will include those made to clients.

3) do you have to let it linger?
We all make bad decisions from time to time. And everyone deserves the opportunity to put things right. That goes for your staff and for you – if you’ve hired someone you think isn’t right, or they’ve screwed up, give them, and yourself a chance to try again. But if it’s still not working, do everyone a favour and put a decisive end to the situation. People don’t perform well in an environment where they feel they’re almost expected to under-deliver, and disgruntled unhappy people spread toxicity much faster than the shiniest happiest person can share positivity.
Be firm, be fair and let everyone go their separate ways without rancour. The only regret I have ever had about firing someone is letting it drag on for far too long, affecting other people in the team. The person in question went on to be much happier in a role far better suited to their skills, and my team flourished without the continual voice of negativity in their midst.

4) wanna walk like you, talk like you
The best managers I’ve had have been mentors too. Mentoring is about trying to empower someone to bring forth the best of her/himself. It’s not about creating a replicant Army of Me. There’s a difference between helping someone develop the skills they need to do their job brilliantly and helping them become brilliant in whatever way they wish. If you can’t accept that your mentee’s strengths or approach may be different to your own, or if they need to develop in an area that’s not your strong suit, the best way you can help is by resigning the post and helping them find someone who can.

5) don’t fear the reaper
Hire people who are smarter than you are. Give them the support, tools, resources and belief they need to excel. Trust them to do their job to the best of their ability (otherwise why did you hire them?) Then you can spend hours in the endless meetings which dog management, safe in the knowledge that they’ve got your back. Trust earns loyalty. People who respect, learn from and admire their bosses are seldom gunning for their job – and if you’re mentoring as well as managing them, you’ll know when they’re ready for a new challenge or a step up. Then you can delight in their success, and be all the happier in the fact it’s not at the expense of your own.

What are your top management skills? Do you agree with my five, and if so, which do you think is most important?

pop nerd quiz results:
1) Kasabian – Empire
2) Badly Drawn Boy – Promise
3) The Cranberries (ugh) – Linger
4) The Jungle Book – Wanna Be Like You
5) Blue Oyster Cult – Don’t Fear the Reaper

One thought on “like a boss: five ways to be a better one

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