BEING a boss can be tough. It gets even harder if you are unable to make the right decisions at the right time.

If you make your decision too quickly, you risk having inadequate data. If you make your decision too slowly, you end up behind the rest of the pack. Waiting for perfect data may result in perfect delay.

Beyond the obvious time constraint, are there any other clues to help bosses make timely and well-informed decisions?

Deciding which decision to make first is a boss’s most important decision.

It is what distinguishes a seasoned leader from a micro-manager, whose behaviour belittles the expertise of his or her team.

In today’s fast-paced, multi-tasking working world, what priorities should a good boss have?

Here are five priorities all bosses should address:


1 Focus on people management

A boss’s job should not be to get the work done. Instead, it should be to focus on optimally managing those people who get the work done.

This includes hiring the right people, motivating the team, appraising and judging team members, and when needs be, firing underachievers or those who don’t fit in with the corporate culture.

Focus not only on direct line reports, but also on support staff. They have a privileged position to view the detailed workings of the organisation in a way no one else can.

If you nurture them well, they can be of immense value.


2 Understand your colleagues and juniors

Spend time to find out what your colleagues and juniors are thinking.

Only by doing this will you be able to discover how they can work better — both as an individual and as a team member.

You also then get a better idea about your role in guiding them.

Don’t only discuss work matters, talk about a wide range of other topics. This will tell you about how they handle themselves and others.

As Sun Tzu says: “Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.”


3 Challenge the rules

There is a saying that “Rules are meant to be broken”.

Ruthlessly pruning unnecessary business rules is an important task for the boss.

New instructions emerge as fast as the incidents that cause concern. This results in so many rules that employees ignore most of them — until disaster strikes.

A good boss removes all useless rules but vigorously enforces the ones that matter.

Just as you do with children, keep rules simple and clear. All employees must understand them and, more importantly, the rationale behind them.

This sets boundaries and helps to ensure that there is no unfortunate scapegoat in a situation where a rule is broken due to ignorance.


4 Set the vision

Many employees get overwhelmed by the daily grind of work.

When the vision is lost, so is all purpose, and employees become robotic, handling their work like automatons.

It is the boss’s job to set the vision, lifting the eyes of senior management to look beyond the horizon every day.

A great boss includes management in discussions about the future and acts as a rallying point for driving the organisation single-mindedly.

When employees help to set the direction, they are motivated to achieve their goals.


5 Ask why

Most bosses focus on the bottom line and spend their lives asking “what” or “how” questions. They forget to ask the “why” questions.

Try asking why things are being done — as much as a hundred times a day.

Your colleagues’ answers will show you if there is purpose for their activities, and whether these are in line with the organisation’s vision.

The answers to “what” or “how” questions will reveal whether your colleagues are doing things the right way.

The answer to “why” questions will reveal whether they are doing the right things, which is more important.


In conclusion

Prioritising can be difficult for a boss when everything is important. Cluttering yourself up with trivia means that important things can get forgotten.

Bosses sometimes ignore these five priorities in pursuit of achieving short-term profits for the business.

What they fail to realise is that if they paid attention to their priorities in the first place, they would achieve their profits anyway.

Article by John Bittleston, chairman, chief executive officer and founder mentor of Terrific Mentors International, a group of skilled mentors, trainers and coaches with significant management experience, who share a passion for reviving balance sheets by helping people find purpose and meaning in their lives. For details, visit