What do your people say about you? Do they tell others how motivational you are? How you care about them, not just the bottom line? How you challenge them to do their best in their areas of strength?
No? What do you think they are saying about you, then? Hopefully, none of the following:
“My boss praises in private and criticizes in public.”
The first rule they teach in management training should be: Praise in public and critique in private. When you were new to management, they should have drilled it into you until you were mumbling it in your sleep.
Do you want your people to be creative? Take initiative? Act boldly? Then STOP embarrassing them in public by telling them what you think they did wrong in front of their peers (or worse, their direct reports)! First, you could be wrong – your opinion could be just that, and not fact. Second, that tentative suggestion that was way our of the box could have morphed into an award winning initiative with a little encouragement or praise for the part that was right. Third, if your people don’t admire your leadership style they will never learn from you. They won’t want to.
Instead, save the critique for when the two of you are alone. Didn’t we all watch “Bambi”? Remember Thumper’s rule: If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” This one is simple. Perhaps not easy, but simple.
“My boss puts down every new suggestion I make.”
It’s far easier to edit a draft then to start something yourself. It’s second nature to point out how to improve an idea, make the plan better, implement it more effectively. The only problem is that if you jump to give “constructive criticism” for each new idea, your people will stop bringing them to you.
Instead, ask questions. You can express your doubts and introduce ideas just as easily by asking open ended questions. Open ended questions begin with who, what, when, where, how or why.
- Who do you think would benefit the most from this?
- What impacts do you think this would have on people or processes down the road?
- When do you think we’d realize a gain from this?
- Where do you see this working the best?
- How do you mean?
- Why do you think this will make a difference?
Stop making statements. Start asking questions. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn about the people you work with and their capabilities. And they will love you for being receptive.
“My boss acts way too harsh/soft for me.”
Interaction styles are different. You can pick up several clues to personality type by observing your people and their reactions. If you just can’t figure out someone at the office, learning about personality type might give you some insight.
If you are risk averse and like to plan everything before you take action (like some golds and Beavers do), you might be driving those on your team who live to get things going (like Otters) or enjoy exploring new ideas (like blues) crazy.
Many people don’t think about this, but if you are gentle and well meaning and in a leadership position it can be a problem too. Why? If you get along with everyone, strive to mediate conflict, and try to have everyone join in a group project and you are managing someone who is very driven, hard charging, or is fiercely independent – they are going to expect you to act in a much more directive way than your natural manner. Why? Because they expect to be led as they would lead, and that means giving direction instead of collaboratively working toward a common goal.
Am I suggesting you try to change your true nature based on your team profile? No, you wouldn’t be successful if you did that. Your success is based on using your strengths, and your personality type can be a guidepost to discovering them.
However, if you seek to understand what your team members expect from a leader and the actions that bring out the best in them, you will become the boss we all dream of having someday. You will become the leader that others choose to follow.
I could go on with more examples, but better yet … why don’t you? What would you love to tell your boss if you could? What feedback have you received from others? Please share in the comments!