Monday, February 5, 2018

To be a Good Boss

It is not simple. Leading and dealing with people is never simple. There will be times when you want to scream at them, or just curl up and not wanting to deal with them at all. But when you are the leader, or the boss (never like this term and all the associations attached to it but for simplicity sake I’ll use it for now), many times you just have to get out and deal with your team.

Surprisingly enough, there are those who think that to be a boss, is to be ‘tough’ all the time. Mentally, physically, intellectually. But we all know it’s not always possible.

So here are my tips before you think being a boss is all about being tough and mean. These are the things that I have practiced, and they seem to work well.

Be comfortable in your own skin. 

To do or to be anything in life, you must start with one thing: be clear of who you are. Know what you want, your own insecurities, strengths, weaknesses. Accept you as you are. Deal with your weaknesses so you don’t blame others.

To me this is very important because that means I’m done with myself. Done with whatever homework I have to do with myself so that I can deal with others. You cannot fix your own weaknesses by using and blaming others. You cannot use your insecurities as excuses to do some things to others. That, is a crime of humanity.

So ask yourself: have I got anything to solve with myself?. Deal with it first. Feel that peace in you first. Only then you can be an effective human being. 

Admit what you don’t know, apologize for your mistakes 

When I was younger, I used to think that being a boss means you should know everything there is to know about the business you are in, how you should operate etc. And when I was finally in that position, this thought has successfully made me so stressed.

Then my mentor showed me that was not so.

Being a leader does imply that you have to know a bit more than others – that is imperative. However, you can never know everything. And the power of a team is in the collaborative energy and cumulative knowledge from everyone’s head.

A boss should know the direction and the general idea of how to get there – you will not want to work with a boss who does not know what he is talking about, right?. But the details, the nitty gritty, often means INVOLVING the team and get everyone to contribute.

A boss should not have the ‘I know everything’ attitude. That is sickening, seriously. That demotivates your team members as it closes the door to them to contribute to the movement of the team.

Be in the 'I don't know' from time to time and invite others to contribute ideas. People love to be involved and feel they have a role in the team’s movement. It allows a flow of energy in the team. It keeps it going.

The same goes with making mistakes. Though you may know the big picture, but you may be wrong about the details of it and you know what? – THAT IS OK!. Apologize for your mistakes, and fix them, immediately. Don’t stall. Stalling only makes you lose credibility as a leader. If you’re unsure then get help. It is OK to ask for help, too. As long as it is not too fundamental that makes others question if you have any brain in the first place.. 

Be silly, and laugh 

My daughters always consider me as a ‘silly mom’. I make faces. I do silly stuff. I tell them silly stories. And we have a good hearty laugh together.

And I do that in my leadership too.

A good humour always saves the day. It also shows your team the fun part of you. It lightens the mood of the team especially when things are tough. Make them see the lighter side of life ESPECIALLY when times are tough.

And laughter, stimulates your brain. Creative thinking, happens best when you are happy and in a good mood. So when you feel that your team’s energy is down, engage them in something fun. Tell them stupid stories – sometimes I tell them stupid stories about myself, and laugh together. It feels good. 

Be strict and firm, but within reason 

Laughter and fun without discipline is chaos. So balancing the two is crucial.

But you know how annoying it is when someone gets angry with no apparent reason?. Well imagine how damaging it is when you do that to your team.

Build some discipline and be clear about any house rules in the team. Make sure everyone knows and adheres to it so that when you notice something is not done or a rule is broken, you can always refer to the same things that have been agreed together.

And when you spot a mistake, stop and breathe before hitting the roof. Now this, I still have to practice because patience is not my middle name.

Investigate calmly why something happened. What were the root causes?. What are the implications?. What can be remedied?. Has anything been done?.

In short: look at all angles before you scream at someone. And don’t try to fix it. Let the doer think of what can be done to fix it. This is important so that your team members can learn from it to avoid it from happening again in the future.

And always put it in the context of learning, not blaming. When you let the doer think of the right actions to fix the mistake and let him apply those actions, you should always be careful of how and what you communicate especially when you are still pissed. Make sure that the person knows this is for his learning not because you want him to pay for his mistake (though deep inside you may think that way, and it is human to think that way!. Just don’t say it. Implied or not. Never). 

Always control your anger with a dose of reality and context. This way your team understands WHY you’re pissed, instead of looking at you as someone who is just being a pain in the ass. 

Appreciate others. Without them, you are nothing 

Let me admit this first: I hate people who use too much ‘I’ in their communication. To me that only shows that this person feels his or her importance without realizing that NOTHING is in isolation of other people’s involvement.

So make sure you always put the right dose of appreciation for your team members’ work. Their commitment. The late nights they have put in. The weekends they have sacrificed. And so on and so forth.

The key word is this: the right dose. Too much appreciation is also not good as it will only miniscule its value overtime. Use your judgement to decide if something is to be or not to be appreciated, and when you should show it. But don’t forget to appreciate. Never take things for granted.

Show to your team members that without their work, there is no achievement. But also make sure that they know you mean meaningful, added value work. Work that has made the team or the business grown, or as simple as making day to day work life more enjoyable. 

Plan an exit strategy 

As my last tip: plan yours, and others’, succession journey.

You are a limited edition. Everybody is. Nobody is a clone to him or herself.

Make sure you have a clear succession plan. Not only for you, but for those who will be in a senior position in the team. If you care enough for your team or business then do this very well.

I have seen teams crumbling down when the boss leaves. It is heartbreaking to see it happening and I surely don’t want that happening to mine. Especially because I know I will come to a point when I no longer want to be at the top, someone else should be there and have a taste of it.

This needs to be planned and communicated well to the next senior persons. But you have to understand their needs and motivation – not everyone desires to be on top!. And you need to find ways to keep that person in your team, without demotivating anyone.

Make sure you communicate what your expectations are – short and long term. And not only about skills, but also, if not actually the most important thing: what you expect this person to cultivate in terms of team culture and values. THE THING that binds people together in the team in the first place.

Have a conversation and set goals around it. What to do, how to do it, and by when. And do it. Before it’s too late i.e. before you realise you want to be out but you have not prepared anything. 

Succession planning is a critical part of leadership. It gives your team a sense of personal growth. The fact that you are not thinking it will be you all the time at the top, means everyone has a fair chance to move up.

And it is healthy for you to plan it. It is lonely on top and the wind is tough sometimes. It is good to think that you will not be there all the time and you will once again be ‘just another bloke’. Well, at least to me, that thought, is refreshing.


I’m not sure if I deserve this gift that my team gave me for my birthday. It’s still a long way to go, and it is not a contest. 

But at least it shows me, as Maria from the Sound of Music sang in one of the songs: I must have done something good. And we all have to try doing that every day: try doing something good, no matter how little it may be.

So, happy boss-ing! (in a good way) 😊

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