Sunday, December 9, 2012

7 Traits Of Extraordinary Bosses

Great bosses understand what employees truly need and then provide it to them.

Why do some bosses attract the best and most loyal employees, while others constantly drive them away? The answer lies in the basic traits that each boss brings to the job.

While average bosses are obsessed with their own goals, extraordinary bosses understand what employees need and then give those things to them.

With that in mind, here are the traits that employees want to see the most in the people for whom they work:

1. Simplicity

The business world is a complex collection of trade-offs. When confronted with these ambiguities, most people either become frozen into inaction or revert to doing whatever seems familiar. Employees need a boss to simplify these complexities, so that their daily activities and actions make sense and have more purpose.

2. Fairness

While it's undeniably true that "life is not fair," the desire for equitable treatment is so ingrained in the human psyche that even murderers protest when they feel they're being treated unfairly. Employees therefore want their boss to reward people in proportion to their contribution and to avoid anything that smacks of favoritism.

3. Humility

Most people strongly dislike arrogant individuals. When employees are forced to tolerate a know-it-all boss, that dislike quickly changes to contempt. On the other hand, employees respect bosses who are humble enough to admit they don't know everything and that they're sometimes (and even often) mistaken.

4. Transparency

A boss who disappears into his or her office, makes a decision, and then emerges with a set of commands leaves the impression that the decision is arbitrary. Even if they don't like a decision, employees far prefer to understand the workings of boss's mind and exactly why that decision was made.

5. Generosity

This is not about money. Money is what employees expect from their job, not from their boss. Employees want bosses to be generous with useful information, generous with their time, generous with their praise, and generous with the kind of coaching that helps employees learn how to do their jobs more quickly and effectively.

6. Patience

Employees secretly despise bosses who are so emotionally weak that they must foist their anger and frustration onto others in order to make themselves feel better. By contrast, employees deeply appreciate a boss who both remains calm in a crisis and is patient with each employee's learning curve.

7. Honesty

In a business world where everything seems up-in-the-air and uncertain, employees crave the security of knowing that a boss will do the right thing, both when dealing with employees and dealing with the outside world. Bosses who can inspire such trust inevitably attract employees who are themselves trustworthy.

Thanks to Geoffrey James / Inc. / Mansueto Ventures LLC.

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6 Simple Ways To Be A Better Boss

Here are six changes to your management style that will make your employees happier.
Last week, I described the 7 traits of extraordinary bosses. While that list has proven popular with readers, it doesn't contain any practical advice for bosses who want to improve their own performance.

Over the years, I've read dozens, maybe hundreds, of emails from employees who either complain about their bosses, or offer fulsome praises. Here are six suggestions that have emerged from this dialog:

1. Manage your people not your numbers.

Conventional business thinking is that numbers are all important. As a result, many managers spend an great deal of time looking at the numbers, slicing and dicing the numbers, putting numbers into graphs, and talking about where the numbers are and where they ought to be.

However, all number in every business are the RESULT of how well you manage people not how well you manage numbers. The only way to get better numbers (regardless of your measurements scheme) is to improve the performance of the people who work for you. A good coach always trumps a good Powerpoint.

2. Have relevant and simple measurements.

While your main focus needs to be your employees rather than your numbers, you still need a way to measure how well those employees are doing. Ideally, your metrics should relate as closely as possible to the behaviors that you're trying to encourage and be simple enough for every employee to understand at a glance.

By contrast, complex measurement schemes, with multiple metrics, inevitably create confusion among employees and managers alike. And if nothing that the employee does seems to affect those metrics, they're just creating mental overhead.

3. Have one priority per employee.

I recently received an email from a person whose boss assigned multiple tasks and insisted that every was a "huge priority." That boss, of course, was an idiot, because if everything is priority then nothing is a priority.

The entire concept of a "priority" means that there is ONE thing that's more important than everything else. Giving your employees "multiple priorities" is foisting on them the responsibility to decide what's really important. That's YOUR job.

4. Never vent emotions on an employee.

Employees understand that managers are human, under pressure, and pressed for time.  They know that bosses get frustrated and angry, especially when confronted with bad news, mistakes that could have been avoided, and so forth.

Even so, when you blow your stack at an employee, or make a cutting or hurtful remark, it creates a wound that never heals completely and festers with secret resentment. You don't have to be perfect, but your employees are emphatically NOT your punching bags.

5. Measure yourself by your worst employee.

Managers use their top performers as measure of how successful they are as managers. However, while you may have hired a top performer or grown him or her into that role, that success is more likely to reflect his or her drive and ability rather than anything that you brought to the table.

Instead, you should measure your management ability based on how you handle your worst performers. It is those people who define the lowest level of performance that you're willing to tolerate as well, and how much you expect the other employees to compensate for your low standards.

6. Compensate higher than average.

There's a tendency among managers to think of wages, perks and commissions as expenses that should be minimized in order to increase profit.  However, if there's anything that's true in the business world it that if you pay average wages, you end up with average employees.

This is simple cause and effect not brain surgery. Maybe back before the Internet it was possible to get top people to work for less than they were worth. Today, however, employees who possess even a modicum of common sense know exactly how much they more money could get elsewhere.

Thanks to Geoffrey James / Inc. / Mansueto Ventures LLC.


5 Reasons Your Top Employee Isn't Happy

Not sure why your top performer is unhappy? Check out what the most brilliant (yet difficult) employees hate about company culture.

There has been a bit of a furor recently as both Apple and Microsoft let go key senior executives (Scott Forstall and Steve Sinofsky, respectively) who were both categorized variously as "abrasive," "difficult," and "arrogant."

In almost every popular account of the firings, the two executives have been painted as "out of control" and having lost the confidence of their peers--to the extent that in each case the CEO (Tim Cook at Apple, Steve Ballmer at Microsoft) had no choice but to reluctantly let them go. "More in sorrow than in anger," as a number of reports put it.

There's only one problem with this narrative. It's so one-sided as to be dangerously naive.

Look, no one with any knowledge of the individuals concerned has demurred with the general perception of Steve Sinofsky and Scott Forstall as being prickly, arrogant, and occasionally insufferable, but look at whom they were working alongside: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer. None of those men could be described as shrinking violets.

Nor is it the case that these two executives were Johnny-come-latelys who didn't "fit in." Sinofsky joined Microsoft as a software design engineer in 1989 (24 years ago!), and Scott Forstall came over from NeXT when it was purchased by Apple in 1997. Both had a sterling record of innovation and execution that ran parallel with their occasional bouts of petulance.

In my experience, this isn't a case of time running out for two people who had it coming. It's clear that both Sinofsky and Forstall had in the past found ways to manage their outbursts that kept them within (barely) acceptable boundaries but that each found the environment within which he was working becoming increasingly intolerable.

In other words, Cook and Ballmer allowed changes to happen in the culture at Apple and Microsoft that eventually pushed their "jerk overachievers" to blow.

It happens all the time. A freewheeling, autocratically managed company has room for (frequently maddening) visionary mavericks until, one day, it doesn't. Unfortunately, from that point on the organization is in Treadmill and headed toward irrelevance.

Here are the top five reasons high-performing maverick employees go ballistic, how to spot them, and what to do about it:

1. Inconsistent / Frequently Changing Priorities

Why It's a Problem: Nothing irritates a top performer more than ditch-to-ditch or fad-based management.

How to Spot It: Employees hunkering down every time a new initiative is introduced--glazing over at strategy meetings.

What to Do About It: Set a short-, medium-, and long-term strategy and stick to each for a reasonable period without being distracted by the newest new thing.

2. Condoning Mediocrity

Why It's a Problem: The No. 1 reason high performers leave organizations in which they are otherwise happy is because of the tolerance of mediocrity.

How to Spot It: Disdain and distance between top performers and others who are not pulling their weight. Dissatisfaction with rewards (compensation, bonuses, awards, etc.) given to others.

What to Do About It: Set high goals for the entire organization and build in both rewards (for success) and consequences (for failure). Apply both consistently and fairly.

3. Round Peg / Square Hole Syndrome

Why It's a Problem: High performers like to do what they're good at‚ not be used as stopgaps in some other way. They view themselves as Ferraris and get frustrated if they think they are being used as golf carts.

How to Spot It: Disengagement from their allocated tasks and responsibilities. Lack of follow-up and accountability. General mopiness.

What to Do About It: Review (with them) what you want this person to do. Freshen up job descriptions and reorientate top performers to tasks that only they can do.

4. Underutilization

Why It's a Problem: Same as above: When you're a Ferrari (or think you are), you don't want to spend your time idling at the curb.

How to Spot It: Freelancing in areas that aren't their responsibility. Getting under everyone's feet. Going rogue.

What to Do About It: Have the employee produce a list of what he or she could/should be doing to occupy free time. Review and agree on utilization. Look at your own delegation skills--if you have an underutilized top performer, it's a sure sign you're a micromanager who has problems delegating.

5. Playing Favorites

Why It's a Problem: Top performers not only believe in a meritocracy. It's their air and water. Start playing favorites and bypassing people despite their results, and your top performers will be out of there before you can say, "Holy second cousin."

How to Spot It: Your sister Sarah's son Jimmy seems much happier than your best salesperson.

What to Do About It: If you need to be told, you shouldn't be managing people.

Thanks to Les McKeown / Inc. / Mansueto Ventures LLC.