I get to work with a lot of talented people in my own teams, the partner organizations that I’m connected with and also those that I consult and coach. It’s not rare at all to hear incredible and glowing remarks about these people from their colleagues, direct reports, and even other business relationships.
I’ll hear things like:
He’s such an incredible leader! A true visionary and we’d follow him anywhere.
And pretty much any iteration of that that you can imagine. You’ve probably either said this yourself or met with someone who talked about their manager or boss like this as well.
How delightful, right? Naturally, I also interface with just as many people who have very little positive to say about their bosses and I’ll refrain from even mentioning a model quote because you already know what I’ve heard – heck, you’ve experienced it!
Well, if you’re in leadership and if you lead any team or business or organization, there comes a point where you realize that you are “the” boss and that people are talking about you and how you act when you lead as well as how you either empower them to their full potential or cripple them.
I was reminded of this concept after having a short conversation with a gentleman that I coach 1-on-1 who instantly went into a near-tirade about how his boss does X and Y and Z and how it’s unbelievably unfair. I asked him point-blank if his boss knows that he (and apparently many people on the team) talk about him in this way.
Silence, for a moment, and then he said: “Maybe… well, I don’t know. Probably not. … But the guy is super-smart… he has to know, right?”
We all know that being “smart” doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re aware or cognizant of everything that is going on around you, especially the perceptions and conversations that may or may not be true.
I simply reminded him something that we had talked about previously: Be the boss that you’d like to to work for and model that for the gentleman. Easier said than done, right?
We continued to discuss the matter in greater detail and came away with some more specific Action Items but overall paradigm is still true without the specifics: We must learn to lead upward from where we are and where we sit in the so-called “food chain.”
And if at all possible, outside of some grievous legality or ethical issue, serve your boss well for the time that you are underneath their influence and management. If you’re in management yourself then it’s time for a wake-up call and a reminder to be incredible managers and bosses.
The idea isn’t to please everyone because if you did you’d help no one and it’s not to necessarily stop the conversations that are going to be shared inevitably when you’re not in the room, because they will always and continue to happen. Just give them something positive to say more than negative, right?
I’m no perfect manager and my consult to other teams, the way that I lead my teams, and even my mentorship and coaching to other startups and individuals is flawed advice just like the next guys’ but I’ll always endeavor to be the type of boss that I’d like to work for.
[Image via Creative Commons, deflam]