According to Wally Bock, “If you are responsible for the performance of a group, then you’re a boss.”
Do you have direct reports? If so, you are a boss, and you have some unique challenges and responsibilities because your own performance is evaluated based on the performance of your team.
Wally has spent more than three decades being a boss, working with bosses and studying great bosses, and over the years has learned a lot about how to do it well.
10 of Wally’s Tips to Become a Better Boss
1. The urgent will drive out the important unless you make it a habit to put important things first. That means first in your day when you concentrate better and have more energy. That means first on your calendar, too. Schedule time for the important things. Then hold that time sacred.
2. When you become a boss, your power goes down, not up. That’s because you’re measured on team performance. So, it’s tempting to try to control everything your team members do. But trying to control everything is a trap that makes you crazy and destroys initiative and morale. Don’t try to control everything, only the things you can control—your behavior, what you say and what you do.
3. People who are top performers can present your biggest challenges. You must keep finding new ways to help them grow, develop, and make progress. They are the people most likely to be the target of recruiting efforts.
4. It’s easy to neglect the steady performers in the middle of the pack. They don’t offer exciting development challenges, like your top performers. They don’t suck up your time, attention, and emotional energy like your chronic problem performers. But it’s dangerous and unfair to neglect the people who show up every day, do an acceptable job, and then go home. They help you and your team accomplish your mission. They free up your time so you can devote it to seizing opportunities and solving problems. So, thank them. And help them make progress that matters to them.
5. Use objective, non-judgmental language when you document behavior or when you give feedback. That makes it easier to have a conversation about the behavior and easier to defend your description in an adversarial proceeding.
6. When there’s a problem or when you need to talk to a team member about performance, the best time is usually now. Unless there’s a compelling reason not to, have that conversation or solve that problem right away. Most performance issues are not self-healing. If you leave them alone, they will usually go from bad to worse. Have that conversation now. Don’t put it off.
7. Part of your job is helping your team members succeed. That’s not just for today. Help them succeed tomorrow, too. Talk to your team members about their goals and hopes. Help your team members create a personal development plan.
8. Power isn’t something you bestow. It’s something you unleash. The best way to “empower” competent and willing team members is to get out of their way.
9. Sometimes it’s difficult for team members to understand why their work is important. No matter what job they have, there’s a customer for the work, sometimes inside your organization and sometimes outside. Bring in customers to tell the team how the work they do makes a difference.
10. What you say and do are the tools you use to influence the behavior of the people who work for you. Your team members pay attention to what you say and what you do to get clues about what matters to you and what you expect them to do. Remember: the example you set determines the behavior you get.
As a bonus, you will also get a collection of tips from 21 leadership experts.
Here’s my tip:
If I had only one piece of leadership advice to give, it would be to listen. Really listen. Listen because you will get important information that you can’t get on your own. Listen to people who don’t always agree with you because you will get a perspective that you can’t get on your own. There’s an important balance between moving forward quickly with confidence and taking time to gather information and perspective. But taking that time, not only ensures you will be moving forward smarter, but it also builds understanding and commitment from those who need to support the effort.