Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Boss’ Perspective on Being the Boss

Sometimes you hear about managers who do not communicate clearly or effectively.  They may be concerned that people know they lack knowledge about a topic.  As a result, the manager keeps thoughts to herself.  Other times, a leader may be afraid of being wrong.  So they do not allow for engaging conversations that promote disagreement.  When this happens, there is a much larger impact on the organization as a whole if the managers are not having the right conversations with employees. 

The obvious outcome is a dysfunctional organization where no one communicates clearly because leadership has set the tone.  I ask that you consider other important issues. 

As a manager, you should be thinking about
your career growth.  How will you move to the next level of management, even if you are the CEO?  To get there, you should always have an exit strategy and a successor.  By that, I am saying in the strangest way that you should make yourself obsolete in your job.

Too many managers are unable to let go of tasks they do well.  However, if they want to progress, they have to constantly learn new skills, competencies and ways of thinking.  While it is important to possess knowledge yourself, it is more important to know how to manage knowledge.  More importantly, managers are responsible for extracting as much knowledge as is required to build a thriving organization.  So the notion of being afraid to tell your people you don’t know, you were wrong, or ask them, “what do you think?,” or “what would you do?,” is a formula for a struggling organization.   

I have seen smart managers come up with all the answers.  In the end, his employees became resentful and sat back and watched the manager solve all the problems.  As long as the manager had “the right answer” the other employees were not able to contribute.  Unfortunately, that manager stunted his and his company’s growth.  All problem solving depended on him. To remedy this, he was no longer allowed to solve operations’ problems.  Once he was taken out of the operations room, the employees had to make the tough decisions themselves.  As they became more confident in their problem solving abilities, they became a huge asset to the organization.  In fact, they became a competitive edge as an operations team.  That only happened because the new manager used the Socratic approach.  He started asking what would you do if I were not here?  Can you explain what will happen if…?    

Asking questions serves several purposes.

  1. Develop leaders – successors
  2. Creates problem solvers who can function independently
  3. It ensures your people feel valuable to you and the enterprise

In times of constant change and global competition, no one should have the same job functions from one year to the next.  Work yourself out of a job.  To do that, you will have to find a successor.  Delegating is one way to prepare people for leadership and increased responsibility. 

The other is to let your people give the answers.  There are times when you may know it.  However, it is more valuable long term to ask your people to solve the problem for or in partnership with you.  As your people become accustomed to your dialogue, they will have a process for solving complex problems.  As a manager, this frees you up to focus on larger issues. 

When your team or company grows, your direct reports develop a sense of pride knowing they contributed to the growth.  Asking your people questions empowers them and makes them feel valued.  If you have all the answers, they are not needed. 

What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.

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