Which one will you be? A good boss or a bad one?
By JONATHAN YABUT
Congratulations! After years of working hard and mastering your job, you finally got promoted. You’re now the boss. Armed with a bigger desk and a fatter paycheck, the company now expects you to deliver more by leading a team of workers who also aspire to become like you in the future. Or do they?
By now, you should know that a bigger role also means bigger responsibilities—and that includes managing and developing the people who report to you. At the end of the day, their success is your victory too and their mistakes are also your failures.
So are you a good boss, or will you eventually turn into a bad boss that everyone wishes to leave?
Before you grow some sharp fangs thanks to all the work stress, here’s a helpful list of what to look out for the moment you start managing a group of people.
1. Pass on too much work
Sure, you’ve got tonnes of work to do because your company wants to achieve so much for the year. But that doesn’t give you the license to simply pass them on to your team.
Overworking your people especially the good ones puts your team performance at risk: it diminishes productivity and makes star performers feel they’re getting punished for being good at what they do.
Bad bosses easily pass on work because it’s convenient and simply because they can. Good bosses believe otherwise. They take the bullet for the team, serving as the cushion that softens the blow to their people so they can keep on getting the best out of them.
Good bosses identify which tasks to prioritise and are brave enough to say ‘no’ to projects that don’t contribute significantly to the bottom line—even if it means saying ‘no’ to their own bosses at times.
Good bosses own the responsibility of serving as a ‘traffic enforcer’: delegating which tasks must be done by who and assigning these tasks strategically based on their people’s strengths.
2. Be the ‘know it all’
It is frustrating and uninspiring to work for a boss whom you feel doesn’t deserve the position, especially when he arrogantly thinks he knows everything when everyone else thinks otherwise.
Bad bosses refuse to accept that learning is a two-way street. They refrain from consulting people below them, thinking it’s a sign of submitting power to subordinates. What they fail to realise is that consulting isn’t only a trait of open-mindedness; it is also a way to engage teams.
People are more engaged and inspired when they take part in delivering an output, and soliciting their opinions before you make a decision is one of them.
Good bosses are curious learners who remain to act like a sponge no matter how high their position is. To become better leaders, they ask feedback from operations team on how they can manufacture products cheaper.
They ask finance teams what can be a better way to send budget reports faster. They take out their sales teams for lunch to understand if they’re pricing their products right. When they don’t have the right answers, they are humble enough to ask.
3. Don’t care about personal lives
At work, we’re all expected to draw a clear line between office and personal life. But that doesn’t mean that our ability to genuinely care for someone becomes impossible too.
Bad bosses simply don’t care. They think it’s too personal to ask how your weekend went. They suspect your recent filing of sick leave last Monday was because you were too lazy to go to work.
Good bosses act otherwise. They try to understand our personal situations so they can get a bigger picture of where we’re coming from—why we come to work late, why we fear public speaking, or why we don’t get along with a colleague.
A good boss takes the time to know your life story so he can help you become a better person regardless if you’re staying long in the company or not.
We love a good boss who invites us for a coffee break during a rough day at work but knows when to distance himself when people get too close for comfort.
When we know that a boss genuinely cares, we feel more secure and safe. We feel we’re not just empty robots making money for the business. We feel as important as everyone else.
4. Deny them the praise or reward when they deserve it
After meeting the needs of food and shelter, psychologist Abraham Maslow reminds us that humanity yearns for acceptance and love.
We all desire to be valued by our families, societies, and companies. Good bosses know this well. It’s in their nature to give talented employees a pat on their back. Over time, they reward as they please: a salary raise, promotion, or a new exciting project.
Bad bosses would rather believe that great performance is what you’re being paid for anyway and is only expected. They make excuses not to promote you: “This year is too early, perhaps next year”, “He’s going to leave soon anyway.” He defers until it is too late and the star employee hands over his resignation letter.
To keep on inspiring a workforce that will stay for the long run, an organisation must clearly demonstrate a culture of meritocracy. Company rock stars will always be willing to take on a bigger challenge, but beware that they also know their worth.
Remember that every recruiter in today’s world is just a click away on LinkedIn. The moment your star employee senses that the grass is greener on the other side, he will easily jump ship.
5. Forget that mentorship and career development are your duties
The company isn’t just giving you people so you can accomplish more work. As a boss, you’re also expected to groom and sharpen your people’s skills so that they can become like you. One of them should be ready to replace you in the future should you move up or move out.
Good bosses ask about your plans for the company for the next three or five years and map out a career plan that can help you climb the corporate ladder fast.
“Your strength is X, but to become a senior manager, you also need to work on your Y. I think you should do more of Z,” says a good boss who observes your performance regularly.
A bad boss is clearly the opposite. He sees mentorship as an extra workload. He thinks employees should be looking out for themselves. He thinks your failure is your own fault, and there’s nothing he can do about it.
Yes, he does worry if you’re not performing well—not because he cares for you, but because he thinks you’ll simply add to his headache. He’s the ultimate boss you just want to leave.
Becoming a good boss is a choice
Like any teacher who becomes happy when he sees his students conquer the real world, a good boss lives up to the sincerest intention of making their people successful. They believe that the ultimate role of good leaders is to make more leaders out of themselves.
Good bosses clear the path, bad bosses dictate it. Bad bosses say “Go!”; the good ones say “Let’s go!”
In this age and time when people easily come and go, what type of boss do you want to be remembered as?
Jonathan is a much sought-after speaker on leadership, career management and Gen-Y topics. To engage him for your organisation, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Consulting Corner articles, click here.
Reposted with permission on Leaderonomics.com.
Jonathan is the winner of The Apprentice Asia and is currently based in Kuala Lumpur as the managing director of The JY Ventures & Consultancy. He is also an author of the book From Grit to Great, and a Leaderonomics faculty partner.