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Three Ways to Become a Great Boss

(posted: January 11th, 2011)

Ask yourself this: Are you a good boss? Or maybe a great boss? Or, might you be just a terrible boss?

"Many bosses have simply stopped making progress because they simply don't know how to."

Linda A. Hill

Many managers underestimate the transformational challenges of their roles; or they become complacent and stop growing and improving. At best, they learn to get by; at worst they become terrible bosses.

Doubts & Fears

Sometimes even the best leaders suffer doubts and fears despite years of management experience.

Any number of events can trigger them:

  • A lukewarm performance review
  • An initiative going poorly
  • A daunting new assignment
  • An undeveloped team

The whole question of how managers grow and advance is one we've studied and lived with for years. Managers rarely stop and ask themselves, "How good am I?" and "Do I need to be better?" unless they are shocked into it. On the spectrum of great to awful bosses where do you fall?

According to a Harvard Business Review article published January 2011, three imperatives can guide managers on their journey to becoming great bosses.

1. Manage Yourself

Management begins with you. Who you are as a person, the beliefs and values that drive your actions, and especially how you connect with others all matter to the people you most influence. Every day people you work with will examine every interaction with you, your every word and deed, to uncover your intentions. They ask themselves, "Can I trust this person?" Trust is the foundation of all forms of influence and your need to conduct yourself in ways that foster it.

"I wish I could say something that would make you trust me, but if you give me time I can prove it to you. Because if I had a second chance, I would never need a third."

Unknown

2. Manage Your Network

Effective managers know that they cannot avoid conflict and competition among organizational groups. They build and nurture ongoing relationships with those they need and those who need them; that is how they influence people for whom they have no formal authority.

3. Manage Your Team

Team members need to know what's required of them collectively and individually and what the team's values, norms and standards are. In a real team, members hold themselves and each other jointly accountable. They share a genuine conviction that they will succeed or fail together.

  • Do you define and constantly refine your team's vision for the future?
  • Do you clarify roles, works rules, team culture, and feedback about performance?
  • Do you know and manage your people as individuals as well as team members?

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

Henry Ford

The article includes a useful assessment tool to help you get started and many of my clients have found it extremely useful. Progress will come only from your work experience; from trying and learning, observing and interacting with others, experimenting, and sometimes pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. Then assessing yourself on the three imperatives again and again.

"There are risks and costs to a program of actions. But they are far less than the long range risks and costs of comfortable inaction."

John F. Kennedy

Challenge Yourself
  • What do you need to learn and grow to become a great boss?

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