Do you like your boss? According to the Webster dictionary, the word Boss stands for: a person who exercises control over workers. Yes, to exercise control. It does sound nicer to be the controller vs. the controlled doesn’t it – but with what strings attached? The fine print that comes with being the boss may not be all it’s cracked up to be. If you’re striving to take over the reigns one day, here are a few earnest insights and considerations worth examining to see if you have what it takes.
The demands and strains of middle-to-upper management can encompass an extremely wide range of challenges these days. Times have changed, and the general workforce is more abundant in restless, unhappy, opinionated workers than ever before – and they like to express it. A manager’s daily role is to look at the big picture, know what resources are required, what the targets are, and manage the team to achieve it. They are paid higher salaries to deal with people’s issues and get results. Without a foundation of strong people skills, the notable pressure and stress can become evident to the team and will begin to create a disconnect that’s difficult to pinpoint or correct.
I spoke with a few different managers with five to ten years’ experience in managing teams, to get a sense of the difficulties that they face in their world. Here are a few takeaways:
- Employees generally care about two things more than anything else: their schedule and their pay. Managers, in most cases, have zero control over either.
- Managers are stuck in the middle and have to consider concerns from all angles. The team sees them as responsible for all grievances, the bosses see them responsible for not meeting targets, and the customers want to talk to them about unsatisfactory services and pricing not ideal.
- The general workforce now expects much more than just a salary. They want bonuses, deserved or not, latest computers and software, 3+ weeks of paid vacation, and the ability to pick the best working hours.
The general consensus is that employees expect perks in addition to just getting paid for the hours they work. It also sounds like solid work ethic is beginning to slip away and becoming increasingly rare.
Keeping a team on track, motivated, and engaged in their work sounds, frankly, exhausting. To continue to have influence with people on the team, you have to come alongside them and really get involved in their lives. Without effective people skills deployed by management, a workplace can become an increasingly negative environment. The water cooler crowd is generally not a positive hang out to begin with and if that is not the case at your place of work, then your boss must be doing something right. Most offices rank dead last in shared and expressed gratitude and the boss is perhaps the single most powerful factor in an employee’s attitude.
Here are six proactive efforts that great bosses make:
- Communicate their plans and goals clearly, which ensures that people understand their roles and responsibilities as members of the team.
- Give a glimpse of vulnerability to employees. The boss is often not seen as a person, they are seen as a boss. A boss who is open to sharing challenges and personal sides will strengthen the relationship with employees and align their goals.
- Help the team stay fresh – bring a sense of play and entertainment to the office. We spend so much time at work that it can be hard to stay enthused.
- Give a nudge or praise when needed. Sometimes we just need a little reminder that we are capable of doing better or some appreciation on a job well done.
- A great boss observes their employees to find out what they do best, leveraging the instincts and skills that the employees have.
- Provide some unexpected flexibility or attention; give employees the odd break when needed, with a day off or perhaps some undivided attention or time to really listen to them.
As you can see from the list it really comes down to people. It’s all about others. Being what is often referred to as a “people person” is not necessarily taught to us in school, but can be a skill developed over time. Learning to lead and work with others can end up paying huge dividends. This lifelong learning process continues long after the formal education process is done – yes you have to continue to do it on your own time. It amazes me how many people just stop reading and studying after school altogether. Sorry fiction and sci-fi fans that is not the kind of reading I am referring to, I’m talking about diving into learning about communication, relationships, and life, not escaping it.
Book recommendations in the key areas of People, Communication, and Leadership:
How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie (People)
Everyone Communicates Few Connect, John C. Maxwell (Communication)
The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner (Leadership)
When you have developed these essential people skills to intersect with your education and work experience, you will start to see growth. If and when applied, you will begin to see yourself separating from the larger “always complaining” crew and gravitate toward the much smaller group of employees who are always seeking to find answers and solutions to the tasks at hand. You will start looking to see if there’s a better way of doing things, asking the right questions and finding your voice among the team. Learning how to step up and add value as a key team player has to come before taking the reigns of leading your own team successfully.
Remember, if you think you’re leading a group of people on a mission or journey, stop for moment, and take a look behind you. If no one is following – you are only taking a walk.