n. Bosses: individuals who are usually the immediate supervisors of a number of employees and have certain capacities and responsibilities to make decisions – the term itself is not a formal title and is sometimes used to refer to any higher-level employee in a company, including a supervisor, manager, director or the CEO.^1
A good boss makes his men realise they have more ability than they think they have so that they consistently do better work than they thought they could.
– Charles Erwin Wilson
Movies such as Horrible Bosses portray narcissistic, indulgent people using manipulation and intimidation to fill their own insecurities or workflow demands. Thank goodness I’ve never encountered one of those.
If you want to have an impact and get the job done, then you do have to make the tough calls, expect more from your people and rally the troops. Consultation does not abdicate decision-making. This in itself is enough to cause friction within even the healthiest workplaces! Navigating this tightrope can be tricky – and alienating.
Some of the Bosses I’ve had the privilege of working with demonstrated all or part of the following traits:
The Rule of 3-by-3
Compelling Bosses demonstrate a three-fold capability: Character, Commitment & Competency
Character + Likeability + Lifestyle
In my first full-time job working at a regional branch of a major bank, I had three bosses. Boss A damaged me with inappropriate remarks in the stairwell and a hand that lingered too long. That was topped off when I saw him barefoot with hanging toenails walking through the local shopping centre. He had no self-respect and he’d shattered my perception of what a boss should be.
Boss B thought it was cool, last thing on a Friday, to have me put away a tray in the giant strong room, then close the door and spin the combo with no light on. I had no idea there was a light switch or a phone inside. I cried out and he laughed thinking it was the funniest joke.
And there was Boss C who was normal and not ‘out there’. He was reasonable and left you feeling ‘safe’ as you learned. He is one of the reasons I do what I do.
Commitment + Networks + Legacy
Going the extra mile is part and parcel of most jobs. In some countries, a maximum number of ‘ordinary hours’ you can work across a month is legislated to protect the rights of workers. In reality, life is a shifting canvas of trends and seasons. You’ll need to be here, be there, turn up and turn on to connect with people and nurture relationships.
Competency + Financial Intelligence + Outcomes
Upskilling through formal and informal education, internal or external mentoring and coaching will prepare you to lead your team through different seasons. Love your stats, explore what they mean, quantify what you need and work the plan to achieve the outcomes that will move you closer to your goals.
There’s something compelling about a leader who is across the Rule of 3-by-3!
Typically, the ‘buck stops here’ with bosses. Whatever the title is on your payslip, the burden of leadership remains whether you are a supervisor, manager, pastor, doctor, builder, farmer, CEO, duty nurse, owner, teacher, principal or SME owner.
Learning how to maintain transparency and honouring commitments while zig-zagging between workflow, boundaries and the life outside is all part of the excitement. Engaging with a trusted colleague, industry mentor or external coach can go a long way to help you debrief, frame your thinking and correct your course when needed.
Spare a Thought for Your Boss
Bosses are people first and foremost. Until we’re ready to walk in their shoes, we should do everything we can to fulfill our responsibilities as a positive member of their team. Respect their role, make a point of getting to know them and be a proactive, positive resource for them.
Seek to Understand, Rather than Be Understood & Be a Good ‘Follower’
If you’re not gelling with your boss despite your best efforts, or if the nature of the work or the direction in which they are leading the business is unreasonable, then follow the existing policies and procedures to reconcile or leave. Take responsibility for You Inc. and move on.
Life’s too short.
By the same token, be patient, chat with a trusted friend or colleague and gain a little perspective before it goes too far.
The 2020 environment of rapid change, increasing use of AI and high-speed pressures on start-ups are placing real demands on founders and teams. If you have been used to working in mainstream environments or industries over the past 20-30 years you may come face to face with discomfort and demands for better performance and an innovative, driven approach to sales.
If You’re the Boss, Then Be a Good One
Authority used wrongly – You’re the boss so don’t lord it over people. It is not about control or intimidation. It should be about serving one another, in love, using every available attribute to make a difference on the planet.
The jobs we fill do not determine our worth. Be aware of finding the right balance between being task-focused and people-driven.
Authority used rightly – You exercise consultation and inclusivity as appropriate. You demonstrate clear boundaries. You don’t shy away from the tough calls. While you ruffle some feathers, your workplace is the right place for you and if you have up-line support, then you feel safe to make the tough calls, knowing you are backed.
Role status – Your title and society status doesn’t guarantee popularity, loyalty or respect. In High Society, Grace Kelly’s last film in 1956 before becoming the Princess of Monaco, her character Tracy Samantha Lord endearingly, if somewhat naively, asks, ‘Everybody loves me, don’t they?’
Obviously, Tracy has not taken the time to consider how others see her beyond her socio-economic standing and family name. In your workplace, if you’re gaining your value from your title or perceived status, then it’s not sustainable. Like Tracy, you may need a few friends to challenge your awareness of self and others.
You will probably polarise your colleagues and team from time to time. That’s the nature of disruption and promoting accountability. It’s not unreasonable to want your colleagues to show up, turn on and do the work.
Care enough to confront – Have robust conversations with one another. Distinguish between attacks against people versus the pursuit of clarifying practices and processes before taking the criticism personally.
Not everyone will understand you – shocking, isn’t it? Well, it can be pretty crazy. Work with a mentor or a coach to keep a clear perspective and reveal any blind spots you may have.
Tough calls – As a boss, I’ve had to make decisions that not everyone agreed with and some that I wish I could have avoided. I’ve rolled out corporate objectives after rigorous debate behind closed doors with senior colleagues and I’ve challenged staff to grow and be accountable for their actions.
In one role, leading my region through redundancies, program closures and expansions, I leveraged my networks, worked with an executive coach, used creative problem-solving, extended reporting deadlines, challenged innuendo and gossip, had the courage of my convictions, stopped rescuing people, reassessed the culture of the organisation, reflected on what I’d learnt, what I’d contributed and those I admired, before giving myself permission to walk away.
That’s a tough call when you’re loyal.
If you’re finding the season you’re in as a leader a little tough, then put some external support strategies in place, test your communication strategies, tweak a few things and make sure you’re accountable to have a good work-life balance!
Leading Millennials & Centennials
If you’re leading a generation of Millennials and Centennials, then stay clear on your values and organisational alignment. Be consistent with your behavioural expectations. Use language and interactive training sessions that share the big ‘WHY’ and bring them on the journey with you. To be compelling is to captivate and promote unity and action across all generations within the workplace.
I’ve worked with some great bosses and some not so great. I’m a mum and a step-mum to four women. I am inspired by some of the bosses my girls have had and absolutely aghast at some of their others.
I have seen high school leavers burn out because of unrealistic expectations from a fast food restaurant that would have 18-year-olds wake at 3am to start at 4am without any training on how to adjust to shift work.
I’ve seen ‘pop-up’ shop owners in shopping malls refuse to provide 18-year-olds with a break during a 12-hour shift. The kids are fearful they won’t be offered further hours so they don’t make a fuss.
As parents, we want our children to have good boundaries and to develop their negotiation skills. We also want employers to uphold the laws of the land and honour their team members with appropriate care and mutual respect, not only because it is the law but because it is the right thing to do!
In 2016 and 2017, Mr Marsh pursued Australian company Bakers Delight to address their unfair Certified Agreement after his daughter brought to his attention the pay rates she and many under-18s were receiving.^2
The courage of Mr Marsh’s convictions and willingness to step into the debate with the company generated national media attention and public outcry which led to a report in The Age highlighting the company had agreed to remove the Certified Agreement.5
Fruits of the Spirit | A Counter-Cultural Way to Lead if You’re Combining Faith and Works
Written about 2000 years ago in the Letter to the Galatians, the country of modern-day Turkey, Paul the Apostle shares the Fruits of the Spirit. It’s a list of qualities not often associated with job descriptions of aspiring leaders and C-suite executives, yet they are the very same character and behavioural traits that enduring influencers embody.
The qualities are: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.^3 Which one could you demonstrate more of to be compelling and maintain long-term perspective?
- Love – Look for the gold in every person. You’ve likely heard the verse at weddings.
- Joy – Look for it in the pursuit of your long-term Don’t get hung up on the short-term problems.
- Peace – This comes through the hope and trust that it is all going to turn out well.
- Forbearance – Patiently hang in there with others and lean on your faith because heaven knows sometimes you just need an extra bit of help!
- Kindness and Gentleness – Seek to understand one another with gentleness, sincere love and truthful speech.
- Goodness – Boldly do good towards all people and have the faith-filled mindset that goodness follows you.
- Faithfulness – A consistent belief and trust in God, during every season of your leadership, which inspires confidence and dependability in others.
- Self-control – It’s about more than not losing your cool and avoiding conflict. Rather, it is to be caring enough to confront with diligence, virtue, knowledge, boundaries, endurance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love.
Consider doing a weekend word study on each of the fruits. Go back to the original Greek and Hebrew meanings to explore their relevance to you and how you lead.
Wish your boss was different? Or your staff were better? Maybe, just maybe we could all be better versions of ourselves. Grab Your Copy of Tarran’s Book “The Alphabet Principle: Your A-Z Guide to Being a Compelling Leader” When You Order it Here!
Your Boss Checklist
- Communicate the ‘WHY’: use different mediums to reach the various players.
- Care for your people: know what’s important to them, have regular check-ins, look for the opportunities to hear what’s working well and find out if they may be up against something unfamiliar. Believe the best in them.
- Be accountable: get a coach! Pay for it yourself or seek input from your employer. Professional development may be a tax deduction on your annual income return so check with your accountant.
- Stop solely relying on emails: guard against the overuse of technology. Pick up the phone and talk to people or see them face to face. Why? Your team members may feel more valued when you do.
- Check your boundaries: switch off that technology at a set time each evening and don’t turn it on again until a pre-arranged time the next morning. If you’re on call, develop your own personal boundaries regarding accessibility. You do not want that message light flicking at you or your spouse during those midnight hours!
- Make diary notes: backup what you say in phone calls by using a quick diary note. Use the voice memo function on your phone and email it to yourself or your PA. Don’t over complicate things.
- Share the load: ask for help when you need it. Don’t be a martyr by taking it all on. Expect everyone to grow during a period of expansion.
- Review your ‘fit’ for the role: are you growing with the position and the changing requirements?
Are you in agreement with the direction of the business? Are you role-modelling unity and inspiring your team moving forward? Are you able to have robust conversations and respectful debate without fear?
Be compelling: be someone they know, like and trust.
^1.Business Dictionary, boss, http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/boss.html
^2. Toscano, N. & Danckert, S., 1 January 2017, ‘Bakers Delight faces legal challenge over wages’, The Age, http://bit.ly/TAP-UnfairCertifiedAgreement
^3. New Testament Galatians 5:22–23 (NIV) Leading with Faith in Action. Combining Faith and Works
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tarran Deane is the Author of “The Alphabet Principle ~ Your A-Z Guide to Being a Compelling Leader, for Real Life@Work”. With executive and leadership experience, covering more than 41,000 hours, across human services, workforce planning, associations and peak bodies, along with banking and tourism, Tarran has spoken at conferences and events in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the United States of America, on strategic and operational elements of Leadership, Communication, Change Management, Diversity, Inclusion and Engagements.
As a wife, mum & step-mum, Tarran loves the tapestry of family life and recharges by serving others, chilling out and racing her Ducati 800 Monster through the hills of Northern NSW.