How leaders can be better at their job

Are you thinking about your employees' problems as often as your own?

A young woman having just been appointed as a manager for the first time recently asked me what I thought was the one most important thing for leaders to think about while trying to be better at their jobs. I thought about that for more than a few seconds because I have been writing about this stuff for 40 or so years, and a short answer would be tough.

So my one-line answer was: “Think about the problems of the people in your group at least as much as you think of your own.”

This was kind of cheating because it implies a list of things:

Find out all you can about each one. Their experience, their hopes and dreams. During these conversations ask questions to get them talking – (Talk one-third of the time, listen two-thirds of the time.)

Help them learn that leaders ask and listen. For some reason many think that powerful people talk all the time. Not usually true; they listen and then harness the thinking power of a group.

Let them know they are vital members of the team. Particularly when you are new, you must make the extra effort show everyone in the group that everyone is important to the group. Get everyone’s point of view.

No surprises. Nothing can make you feel more left out than surprises from your boss. If you are my boss and you are making decisions without caring about my opinion, I’m going to think that I am not important here. If you want my best work, I have to be convinced that you value me, my opinion and my work. Don’t announce decisions to me; tell me the problem and ask my opinion. Every time you surprise me with some decision I was not included in, you simply reduce my commitment to you. Sooner or later it will be fatal to our relationship.

If somebody does not fit, help him or her find another job. Not everyone works out. When that happens, it’s a job for the boss to get them out of the group.

Help them figure out their best future. A boss should be a friend and a consultant to each member of his team, looking out simultaneously for the company, himself and each member of the team. If their best future is somewhere else you should tell your team member your opinion and help him/her get there

Be a leader, not a drinking buddy. Be a friend and a leader. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to be best buddies. It never makes for a good boss/team member relationship.

Show them how to make decisions. After problems are discussed and opinions are given, decisions need to be made and executed. If the decision to be made is within the scope of the group, the leader will determine how it will be made — by the boss (he or she needs the best thinking of each member) or as a recommendation of the group to upper management.

Categories: Business Leaders, Magazine Articles