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Can you get the best work out of the people you manage?

Whether they number in the thousands or just a handful, encouraging your team to produce at full throttle is tough to achieve because you have to enjoy the process along the way.

When I start thinking about this problem, I recall the best boss I ever had. Why do I think that he was so great? His name was Boo Bue (don’t ask me where the first name came from) and he was the manager of the California division of a management training company. I was a young salesman trying to break into and learn how to call on top management in Northern California companies and get them to have us train their managers. It was really tough. I never worked harder, making presentations every day, working on straight commission and trying to raise a young family. Why do I still think Boo was the best?

Because I’m absolutely convinced that Boo liked me. He made me think that I had the stuff to be successful in that business. He helped me every time we were together, and he spent hours helping me do my job better. I was absolutely sure that I should stay with him because I knew that he would get me into the big time. His technique was simple: He always concentrated on strengths. The only times he would talk about a weakness were when he would link it to an ability.  If I saw him today, I think he would still try to help me see my strengths, and I haven’t seen him in probably 45 years. He was absolutely great to work for and he helped me a lot in understanding how to lead and manage.

But it was his attitude toward me that helped me the most! I became a bigger believer in myself.

The worst boss I ever had was just the opposite. His attitude toward me was, at best, that I was nothing special. I was like the kid trying to hammer in a nail and the man says, while grabbing the hammer, “Here, give me that, you’ll only hurt somebody.” The boss you don’t want says things like, “This is an important client, I’ll do all the talking,” or, “I’m too busy, come back later when I have this important work done.” Boo always acted like I was his most important work in progress. He did this for a number of people in his group and it made us a more cohesive team.

Your team should be lucky enough to work for a person who doesn’t dismiss, demean, disrespect or distain. Any comment that is born of distain like, “You’re not smart enough…” or “You’ll never be able to do that…” does nothing but tear up relationships and damage egos. The effects are almost impossible to reverse. It’s the way kids are damaged and the way adults are robbed of their promise.

So who wants to work for someone like this? Nobody. If you and I want to build a strong team, we want to be a catalyst for growth rather than whip people with distain. We should spend whatever time is necessary to find the strengths to build on in each person.

One of the strongest tools used by really good managers of people is respect. The respect they have for the people for which they are responsible. This respect helps them grow in skill and insight. The lack of it has the opposite effect.

What happens to our employees is up to us.

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Pat Wiesner

Pat Wiesner is the retired CEO of WiesnerMedia, publisher of ColoradoBiz. He still leads sales training for the company. E-mail him at pwiesner@cobizmag.com.

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