Welcome to the big chair. Now prove you deserve it
Being the boss is no picnic. People come to you with problems, complaints, conflicts and issues – constantly. And then you still have the rest of your job to do as well as a manager of your own to deal with.
I get it, but your compensation is a higher salary (sometimes a lot higher), status, perks and greater control over your work day so suck it up. If you are not up for the job, don’t take it on. And if you are getting overwhelmed, get help.
Australian companies are well-known for selecting managers on their technical ability rather than their people management skills.
In the mid-90s the Karpin Report followed an exhaustive study into the quality of local management. It made 28 recommendations including the need to provide training in interpersonal skills such as communication, negotiation and mediation, conflict resolution, creativity and the ability to manage change by 2010.
Did we make it? I believe a lot has been done to develop real leadership but you tell me. In challenging times like the GFC and the current climate of uncertainty, people management is often the first thing to suffer. (Personally, I worry we are talking ourselves into a GFC2. Let’s not.)
A CareerOne survey of more than 2,000 people carried out by Core Data two weeks ago found that 36 per cent of people rate their manager as “good”, 31.6 per cent as “average” and 32 per cent as downright horrible. A bad boss drives down productivity and costs a company a lot of money – something organisations can ill afford right now.
In 2006 I watched a very entertaining presentation by David Peake, a director of organisational psychologist firm Quantum Edge called Bosses or Bastards. Peake looked at the dumb things companies do that transform productive employees into “quit stays” (they’ve mentally quit but they’re still on the pay roll) or worse, hostile “prisoners”, capable of carrying out acts of sabotage.
Peake told us of an employee who sent out 2,000 letters to customers after replacing the “b” with a “w” in the line: Thankyou for banking with us. Other examples were creating email viruses and “forgetting” to pass on information or messages.
He said too many Australian companies still relied on outdated management styles such as “control and command” or US-style programs that did not work on Australians.
Do your bit for the economy and be a good boss. Here are a few tips but add your own.
Check yourself for “bad boss” traits
CareerOne survey respondents said it for everyone when they identified the top “bad boss” traits: bullying, belittling employees publicly, being moody, inconsistent, credit stealing, micromanaging, laziness, incompetence, kissing up to the “big boss” and never providing feedback, especially positive feedback.
What is with the silence? In his work, The Shipbuilder: Five ancient principles of leadership Jack Myrick advised managers to see potential in people rather than flaws, use authority not power and use the contributions made by employees to make them feel important and valued.
Find a cure for your “moronitis”
I’ve met bosses who think everyone in their team is a moron. Even if that were true it’s the manager’s own fault. They’re either not hiring the right people in the first place or not empowering them to do their job.
The latest Hudson 20:20 report reveals 40 per cent of hires in the current climate are the wrong people. Don’t wing the recruitment process. Get help or bone up on how to write job ads, screen people and reference check. Have a good “on boarding” process and provide any promised training so people can actually do the job you’ve hired them to do.
Fill your gaps
Identify your weaknesses and train up. Educate yourself about leadership and people management. Look at the basics too such as time management, project management, planning, administrative skills, budgeting – whatever.
Manage from a position of trust
Vulnerability breeds mistrust. If you feel insecure then you will project this onto other people. The best way to feel strong in your role is to have a great team at your back. Create trust by giving people your full attention and eye contact when you are talking to them. Develop your listening skills and watch your non-verbal communication. No use talking about trust when your arms are tightly crossed or you’re peering at your phone messages. I had a boss who liked to do the splayed legs presenting groin thing like a chimp. Yuk. Make people feel comfortable in your presence.
Ditto bullying. If you have to bully people to get them to do their work then you are kidding yourself. Your employees are expending more energy on coping with you than they are on doing their work to the best of their ability.
Create work assignments so the success measure is whether the assignment is done to a high quality or not then you don’t have to “see” your employees work. The job is either done or it isn’t.
Micromanaging is a cop out
I have tried to find a positive article about micromanaging but never have.
Look after yourself
According to federal government research, one in five people will experience a mental health issue in any single year in Australia but only 35 per cent will seek help. To look after both yourself and your team members, consider doing the mental health first aid course - www.mhfa.com.au - an Australian invention exported to 15 countries.
Physical fitness is a good idea too. If you are senior enough then make use of the myriad of services out there from personal trainers to dietician and meditation teachers. A great way to combat stress as you get older, more senior and maybe fatter.
In 2007-08, 61.4 per cent of people were overweight or obese. New research was carried out in March this year and I shudder to think about the results.
When you add up what you spend on coffee, alcohol and take-aways in any single week you can start identifying the funds for a personal trainer, exercise class/club, massage therapist or just a therapist.
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