Best Practices, Operations, V9I6

Be the Boss

(Photo courtesy of Pablo Varela on Unsplash)

The word boss has fallen on hard times. 

Most people assign the negative connotations of “bossy” to anyone who holds the title, and though few refer to themselves as someone’s boss, it is still quite common for people to refer to their leader/manager as “my boss.” 

I suggest it’s time to reclaim the title as one of dignity and worthy of respect. 

Our English word comes from the Dutch word baas, which was a term of respect for someone in charge. If you have anyone reporting to you in your role at work, whether that’s a single part-time person or a highly skilled team of professionals, you are a boss. 

If you are responsible for a department, a division, or an entire company yet fail to recognize that you are, in fact, in charge, you are likely leading an underperforming team. 

The titles of team leader, servant leader, or coach are fine; however, none of these titles frees you from the obligation to take charge and own the outcomes of your team. 

Those titles do represent some healthy facets of the role of a boss, but you should never allow them to diminish the fact that you are in charge.

Being in charge simply means that there is a sphere for which you are responsible, and the outcomes—good or bad—are yours to manage. Acknowledging this is the first step in taking ownership of what’s happening. 

And once you’ve held the role for a period of time, whatever you have in that space is something that you have either created or permitted. There is no one else to blame. 

Take a long look in the mirror and say to yourself, “There’s no one else to blame or take credit for my area of responsibility other than you, my friend.” You are the boss!

The first question you must ask if you find yourself in the role of boss is whether or not you are cut out for the job.  

It’s likely that you achieved a leadership position due to some previous success. When that happens, the responsibilities associated with your new role are often assumed rather than specifically identified. 

Leadership is not primarily about putting a new title on your business card or placard on your office door. In Simon Sinek’s words, “Leadership is not a rank or a position, it is a choice—a choice to look after the person to the left of us and the person to the right of us.” 

Are you willing to assume the responsibility for other people’s success? Are you ready to support others so they can become the best version of themselves and contribute more to the cause because they report to you? 

As a boss, you are in charge, and this is part of the responsibility.

Typically, an effective boss begins by making sure the right people are in the right roles to successfully achieve the desired outcomes.

Theodore Roosevelt put it this way: “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” 

This is where the bossy boss often gets it wrong. He doesn’t pay enough attention to the initial selection process; then he finds himself managing (even micro-managing) details. This leads to frustration for himself as well as for his direct report. 

Success as a boss begins with hiring people aligned with the culture and well-suited for the roles they will fill. Only then does the boss have a shot at actually leading and managing those people successfully.

There’s more! Very little in life tests one’s maturity more than being a boss—being in charge of other people. Bosses must earn the respect of those they lead if they are to become great bosses. And they can never take that respect for granted. 

Here are four areas in which great bosses must develop if they want to achieve success.

The first is a healthy self-awareness. This is not the same as being self-absorbed, but rather, aware of how I am feeling, conscious of my strengths and weaknesses, and a humility that allows those around me to have input and give feedback while still assuming responsibility for the outcomes. 

How you feel on any given day can impact how you treat others, especially those you work with closely. As a boss, when you fail to be aware of your personal state, actions and words can have a far different impact than you intend.

Self-awareness leads to the second area, self-regulation. Your test arena for leadership is, of course, how well you lead and manage yourself. 

Do you honor the commitments you make, show up on time to meetings you schedule, respect the time of your employees by finishing meetings on time, and manage your own energy so you can invest in their success? 

Are you the kind of person you expect your employees to be, or do you have a different standard for yourself?

Only people with healthy levels of self-awareness and self-leadership typically achieve the next two qualities that are essential to being a great boss. 

They must be keenly aware of those they lead and as such, earn the right to lead and manage their employees. 

Being aware of your direct reports involves knowledge of their personalities and skills and interest in their overall well-being. 

Sensing that you, the boss, are deeply invested not merely in their performance but in their well-being creates employees who trust your leadership and management. 

This is not about making life easy for them, but rather, skillfully overseeing the organization so that employees achieve their highest potential. 

Being sure each employee receives what serves them and the company best requires a skilled communicator: an agile listener who can capture nuances of what is said or left unsaid and draw out open and honest communication to accomplish clear mutual understanding. 

Competency in communication requires emotional intelligence. It also requires knowing employees individually as people—their strengths and weaknesses, the uniqueness of their personalities, and something about their life outside of work. 

These sorts of connection points help the boss to build strong, healthy teams where people love coming to work, enjoy the work they do, and grow in their own right.

Knowing your direct reports is essential to leading and managing them well. Not only does that boss earn the respect of his direct reports, but it is also obvious that he respects those in his charge. 

When assignments are aligned to people’s skills and communication is framed so that it can be well-received, employees know their boss is working for their success. 

Your people are your No. 1 competitive advantage, and they deserve to be led well. 

Others can copy your products, mimic your services, and even improve on your strategy, but they cannot have your people if you lead them well. The better you are as a boss, the better talent you can hire. 

Not only that, but it is easier to keep them, and you can expect higher performance. 

And, as one world-class boss said, “One great person is better than three good people!”  

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