Being a great boss is not just about leading a company in attaining its goals, sitting behind a huge table and commanding the staff on their tasks and duties.
The point of being a good boss is also about having good managerial and leadership skills, as well as building up both personal and professional rapport with subordinates.
It also means appreciating and recognising the enthusiasm and good results of staff in order to give them a sense of belonging with the organisation. Yet, this is not easy when it comes to practice and is easier ‘said’ than ‘done’.
In today’s competitive environment, companies realise that a good boss is a person who can identify and build on the talents of the staff and knows how to retain top performing employees whilst remembering that great bosses convert people’s thinking from ‘working for a salary’ to ‘working to accomplish goals and personal fulfilment’.
As an employer you will face new challenges every day in office. You will especially be responsible for two areas which are key in an organisation: i.e., to getting and keeping good staff. For that you need sound recruitment practices and the ongoing provision of staff training, development and meaningful engagement.
Recruiting the right people
Recruiting the right people is a responsibility that all employers should take very seriously, particularly in today’s skills shortage climate. It is critical that you regard recruitment as a business investment for both getting and keeping good people.
It is sad that many organisations make recruitment a procedural process and look at only certain aspects of the knowledge and skills factors brought in by education and experience. It is the ‘heart’ and ‘mind’ of the people that drives for quality results. Seeking out the assessment of these two critical factors is totally ignored at interviews and the recruitment procedure.
Further to this, it is important to establish a healthy relationship with the employees; they should be entrusted with responsibility/independence; should create an environment for interesting and challenging work; give and receive feedback and maintain good communication pattern, because transparency and openness plays a great role in the journey of achieving excellence and creating an excellent working place.
Must CEOs learn?
Of course, they must and they should learn continuously. Becoming a CEO does not make a person a demigod. It is regrettable that the CEO nominates and approves the training of his staff continuously but never attends training himself. There is a lot that CEOs can learn from local training. It is unnecessary to spend such vast sums of money in attending learning programmes overseas. The sums of money some payout is ‘vulgar’.
CEOs, especially, must learn and develop themselves on a continuous basis. The playing field changes constantly. Opportunities are open globally and change globally as well, newer recruits are more from the ‘Y’ generation whilst the ‘Baby Boomers’ are fading off, managing people has become more complex with more people knowing their rights and with trade unions pressurising management within a growth pattern, etc., and hence, the captain of the ship, i.e. the CEO, must educate himself and learn to deal with changing circumstances constantly.
The CEO must educate him/herself to be able to define the work to be done, specify the boundaries of freedom to act, indicate the areas where the subordinates should consult him/her, explain the goals and targets to be met and offers his help and support in attaining the goals, relate the results to the strategic business plan and be able to distinguish among errors by carelessness, judgment, attitude, lack of knowledge, lack of skill, de-motivation or a combination of any of these. Most CEOs suffer from the inadequacy in skill of ‘root cause analysis’.
An effective boss should be task oriented
He/she must be task-oriented and his/her judgment of his/her subordinates shall be based on their performance as well as their capability to work amicably in a team. A good boss will not reward or discipline a subordinate based purely on his/her subjective likes and dislikes in the personality of his/her subordinate or on his/her own personal whims and fancies, often referred to as ‘cloven hoof’ or ‘halo effect’.
Display a fair degree of human qualities
Being task-oriented does not mean that the boss should be heartless. It is common amongst bad bosses to forget frequently the fact that those who work under them have a family to take care of, have physical bodies that can get sick, can have interests and passions to pursue after office hours and are given holidays and weekends to relax and refresh.
A good boss truly gives appropriate consideration to the human needs of his subordinates, which obviously lays a strong foundation for a healthy relationship. Having said this, it does not mean that the boss permits a ‘party atmosphere’ in office where people are left to do as they please, i.e., talk to their fiancées and friends during office working time or take unplanned leave to attend weddings, parties, etc.
A good boss must come down hard on wilful and deliberate unethical practice and violations of laid-down procedure. Employees generally admire and respect bosses who are predictable, consistent in their actions, i.e., avoid favouritism, and firm and stern when it comes to standards in performance and behaviour.
Possess a fair degree of knowledge on the subject matter
A good boss must carry with him proven skills, expertise or knowledge in his current area of responsibility. In other words, when a subordinate comes to the boss with a problem, he should not go back disgusted, with the suspicion or conviction that the boss is too inexperienced on the subject matter. This is a common occurrence in the Sri Lankan context, perhaps more in the public sector. The problem lies with those who are behind the decisions of promoting or recruiting to management level.
Give freedom in proportion to the responsibility given
A great boss will naturally allow his team/subordinates to take decisions within their limits without consulting him on every minor issue using their knowledge, skills and authority to produce results. What is most important is to empower employees to manage tasks falling within their purview as long as they are within the individual’s capacity framework. A good boss has to display trust in his subordinates and intervene when something contrary to the trust or the expected results occurs or is about to occur.
Give credit where it is due
Great bosses usually reward and recognise the talents, achievements and contributions of employees when and where things happen. This he/she does in the corporate meetings openly. A good boss, by virtue of being the leader, should not take all the credit to himself for his team’s performance.
Annual performance appraisals should truly reflect the contributions and failings of each subordinate. It is very easy to do this. Just let your people know that you were able to achieve a particular task because of the unstinted support of your team and share the happiness and glory of achievement with them.
The problem is that most of us are egoists and the rest of us are egoists too. Some ego is covert whilst others are more prominent. The moment you want the limelight taken off you, you have taken the first step towards managing your ‘ego’. The alternative would be for you to welcome others into the limelight with you.
A great boss values his time as well as his subordinates’ time. There are some tasks where the time of the subordinates may be more valuable than the boss’s time. Since they understand the value of the time, they avoid conducting unnecessary staff meetings.
I can give a number of examples where bosses call subordinates to their room for reviews and then keep them waiting indefinitely while he is busy attending phone calls. A truly professional manager does not keep hopping from one colleague’s room to another to discuss office politics and kill idle time. He keeps himself busy with work, plans or effective communication to be done by him appropriate to his level and responsibility that he is not expected to delegate.
Meetings, generally, are a thorough waste of time if not managed well. Just picture this: 10 people at a meeting that lasts three hours and steered by a meandering chairperson. At the conclusion of the meeting, nothing tangible was achieved and the meeting went like a friendly discussion without holding persons accountable to decisions taken during the meeting.
Let us assume the average salary and benefits package of each person at the high-level meeting is Rs. 500,000. Then, the cost of the meeting is as follows:
Rate per hour: Rs. 500,000 x 10 = Rs. 5,000,000/30 = Rs. 166,666/8 = Rs. 20,833. Therefore, the cost of the three hour meeting equals Rs. 20,833 x 3 = Rs. 62,499. This figure excludes the man-hour cost of the chairperson and the cost of tea/coffee and refreshments, electricity costs for lighting and air-conditioning. Now think… was the meeting worthwhile after considering opportunity cost?
Be a good “assistant”
This may surprise many, but a great boss is really a good “assistant” to his subordinates; when the subordinate needs help in some area beyond his reach, the boss offers help. When the subordinate lacks knowledge, the boss assists him by educating him. Thus the boss functions as a dependable assistant to his subordinates in areas where the subordinates can’t handle things alone. This will make the bond strong and employees tend to be more committed to work and loyal to the organisation.
Be a strategic thinker
Strategic thinking is the most discussed word in management meetings but is not really practiced. Strategically thinking leaders not only develop a definitive view point of the future, they also shape the culture – defining the behaviours necessary to pursue the path.
Formulating strategic vision and defining core values is certainly the manifestation of strategic thinking. Strategic planning is not strategic thinking. Strategic planning is following up on strategic thinking. Clarity in thinking leads to great strategic plans.
Undoubtedly, the imaginations of strategic thinkers have no bounds. Yet strategic thinking is not about wild dreams. Leaders who think strategically have judicious mix of creative and critical thinking. Creative thinking helps such leaders develop new ideas and critical thinking helps them judge these ideas on their worth. Creative thinking is about new ideas and critical thinking is about picking up practical ideas, together they make leaders, strategic thinkers.
What are the traits of a good boss?
- Good leaders get down and dirty with their people in the nicest possible way.
- They are almost without exception good communicators.
- They have a vision.
- They don’t fear mistakes or hide them either.
- These leaders drive staff engagement and high performance.
- Good bosses lead.
- Concentrate on knowing their people.
- Establish what needs to be done.
- Determine what is right for the business.
- Develop action plans and strategies.
- Make decisions and take responsibility for their interpretation and implementation.
- Make and take responsibility for communicating ideas and plans.
- Remain focused on opportunity, not issues.
- Maintain a well disciplined personal time management regime.
- Use team-based language rather than individual personal words.
- Prepare and establish succession plans.
(The writer is the Managing Director and CEO, McQuire Rens Group of Companies. He has held regional responsibilities of two multinational companies of which one was a Fortune 500 company. He carries out consultancy assignments and management training in Dubai, India, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. He is a much sought-after business consultant and corporate management trainer in Sri Lanka.)