Being a boss can be hugely rewarding, but it’s hard to do well. I’d argue that if you take this role as seriously as it should be taken, the transition from being an individual contributor to having responsibility for another person’s contributions is the most challenging one we make in our careers. Whether you were just promoted into a leadership role, or you’ve been a boss of many for decades, you should ask yourself this question regularly. And honestly. If the answer is yes, great! Why? If the answer is no, good on you for admitting it. But why? Most of us are probably somewhere in the middle: I think so…?
Here are a few questions that might help you diagnose potential issues that could be holding you back from being the best boss you can be, and therefore from getting the best work out of your team.
- Are you fair?
- Do you adapt your leadership style to each individual’s work style?
- Do you practice what you preach?
- Do you have high standards that serve to motivate (rather than repel) people?
- Do you embrace those you lead who (gasp!) may be more talented than you are in any given area?
- Do you welcome feedback?
- Do you genuinely consider points of view and approaches that differ from your own?
- Does everyone know where you stand at all times?
- Do you give people the room they need to be independent but not to the point where you let them fail?
- When the going gets tough, do you take responsibility for the output of the team?
- Conversely, do you give praise and recognition where and when it’s due?
- Are you selfless in doling out opportunities?
- Are you proactive in creating those opportunities?
- Are you present?
- Are you contrite?
- Do you laugh?
- Do you know what your team members’ kids’ and partners’ names are, and what they did last weekend?
- Do you ask before you assume?
- Are you someone people want to have coffee, lunch or an after-work drink with?
This exercise isn’t fool proof, as certainly we all have things about ourselves of which we might not be acutely aware. But if you force yourself to come up with a couple of examples in response to each question, you’ll get to more accurate answers. Regardless of who you are as a boss, you’d want your own boss to be able to answer yes to all. Be the boss you’d want to have.