BOSSES shape how people experience work: joy versus despair, enthusiasm versus complaints, good health versus stress. Most bosses want to be good at what they do, yet many lack the essential mindsets that precede positive actions and behaviours.
As a boss who strives to do great work, you must adjust your thinking. The beliefs and assumptions you hold about yourself, your work and your people will determine your actions, according to Stanford University management professor Robert I. Sutton, PhD, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best...and Learn from the Worst (Business Plus, 2010).
“The best bosses embrace five beliefs that are stepping stones to effective action,” he writes.
Managers who are too assertive will damage relationships with their superiors, peers and subordinates. Conversely, those who aren’t assertive enough will fail to inspire their teams to strive for stretch goals, according to a study conducted by business professors, Dr Daniel Ames and Dr Francis Flynn (of Columbia and Stanford Universities, respectively).
There are times when bosses need to coach people, discipline, communicate direction and intervene. The savviest bosses look for the right moments to apply pressure or encouragement to get the best out of their people. In choosing their moments, they command respect instead of contempt.
“Gritty bosses are driven by the nagging conviction that everything they and their people do could be better if they tried just a little harder or were just a bit more creative,” Dr Sutton writes.
Such bosses instil grit in subordinates. Without creating the impression that everything is an emergency, great bosses have a sense of urgency. They are dogged and patient, sensing when to press forward and when to be flexible.
University of Pennsylvania Assistant Professor of Psychology Angela Duckworth and her colleagues define grit as perseverance and passion toward long-term goals.
“Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest despite failure, adversity and plateaus in progress,” they wrote in a 2007 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology paper.
Small Wins Count
The path to success is lined with small wins. Framing goals as a series of small steps helps people see the importance of their participation.
Smaller goals also help people make better decisions, sustain motivation and manage stress.
When subordinates experience a challenge as too big or complex, they can freeze up. When problems are broken down into bite-sized pieces, a boss inspires clarity, calmness and confidence.
Avoid Power Traps
Numerous studies show that people in power tend to become self-centred and oblivious to what their subordinates need, do and say. Wielding power over others can cause you to:
• Become more focused on your own needs and wants;
• Become less focused on others’ needs; and
• Act as through written and unwritten rules don’t apply to you.
Good bosses remain on guard to avoid such power traps. They never forget how closely they are watched by their people, and they resist taking advantage of their position and ignoring others’ needs.
Provide a Human Shield
Great bosses protect their people, going to bat for resources and support. Even when they may suffer personally, great bosses are willing to take such risks.
They shield their employees from red tape, meddlesome executives, nosy visitors, unnecessary meetings and a host of other time wasters.
“A good boss takes pride in serving as a human shield, absorbing and deflecting heat from superiors and customers, doing all manner of boring and silly tasks and battling back against every idiot and slight that makes life unfair or harder than necessary on his or her charges,” Dr Sutton writes.
There are no magic bullets, and the work may seem relentless. Besides getting things done and meeting performance objectives, you must shepherd your people through every hard turn.
Your principal rewards for success are keeping your job and receiving even more responsibilities and challenges.
The best bosses keep chipping away at a huge pile of tasks — some interesting, others dull but necessary. Their leadership prowess is measured by how well they handle the frustrations associated with people and performance.
Article by Patsi Krakoff, Psy. D. She writes articles for business and executive coaches and consultants, and provides content marketing services for busy professionals.
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