Leading Managers Through Example – and Today, Through Song!
One of the best pieces of professional wisdom – the best companies learn to operate at all levels with the attitude that “my job is to make my boss’s job easier.” (I sure wish I could remember who said that so that I could give credit where credit is due.)
That philosophy is easier said than done. Otherwise, you’d see more companies listed among the ‘great companies’ or ‘best places to work.’ There would be more kudos, fewer grievances, and ultimately more people feeling optimistic during their daily commute, instead of a nagging dread.
One thing that is easy to recognize is that a company run by great leaders is typically a successful company. That doesn’t mean that great leaders can’t experience hard times or even failures. Great leaders know how to pick up themselves and their teams, dust off, re-calibrate, and give it another go.
So how can the philosophy of making a boss’s job easier translate into a strategy for leading managers? The answer is simple: lead by example.
It’s not too late to apologize
When making a point, I can usually find the perfect example embedded into the lyrics of a song. I love me some One Republic, but one thing Ryan Tedder and I don’t agree on is the worth of an apology; I do not think it’s ever too late to apologize.
The recipient of the apology might not agree, but that should not keep the apologizer from giving it a shot. One of the most important things to understand is that no one is perfect—not even the leader. A good leader knows that he/she will make mistakes, and recognize when a mistake’s been made.
A good leader won’t be too proud to admit to a mistake and will try to fix it. So, even if it seems hopeless, if you have made a mistake, lead from behind. That place at the end of the line is called Humility. Even those in the highest position of authority should visit this place often.
If managers receive a “my mistake” from you, they will be more likely to offer one themselves. Remember, leading managers is leading by example!
Try not to be running on empty
One thing that many people with good work ethics admittedly tend to do is to run themselves ragged in order to prove that they are dedicated to their jobs. While dedication is a virtue, giving so much of yourself that your tank is never full will only result in burnout and resentment.
That said, never underestimate the power of delegation and relinquishing control of certain aspects of the business. After all, that is why you have managers. Also, remember to give yourself your much-needed time off.
Take PTO. Go on vacations. Use your sick time when you are sick (besides, no one wants sick people in the office—spread the wealth, not the germs). Studies show that American workers leave gobs of PTO on the table. The U.S. is also a notoriously unhealthy country. (Perhaps there would be a shift in those numbers if more American workers didn’t let their tanks run dry.)
Either way, the people under you are watching your habits. If you don’t take care of yourself, it is likely that they will follow suit, and feel that they cannot do the things necessary to take care of themselves.
Don’t be Hotel California
The famous last words of the Eagles: “You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave.” Yeah, that sounds a bit limiting. Also, that is a prime example of how you don’t want your managers to feel.
In other words, recognize that every person in your company has personal and professional goals. Staying in the same position might be a goal for some people, but other people want to know that they are free to seek different positions within the company to perform tasks that best meets their needs, utilizes their skill set, or that takes them to the next level.
Encourage managers to broaden their skill sets and, when the time comes, spread their wings. Consider yourself a mentor. Be a sounding board for their career aspirations and remember to give constructive feedback that helps them grow in their profession. Leading managers includes encouraging their development and growth.
If your managers can tell that you don’t feel threatened by their growth, they will adopt the same kind of openness with their team.
Do rock the jukebox
Trust me—Alan Jackson wouldn’t have been singing that song if there had actually been some country music tracks in that jukebox. Keep this in mind: Find a way to make work enjoyable, and differentiate the types of morale-building activities you plan, so that all kinds of people will enjoy them.
Some of your associates may find a team 5k to be a great opportunity to bond, but that won’t necessarily work for all employees. Mix it up a little, and you will likely discover a lot of cool and interesting things about these people you practically live with on a weekly basis.
Plus, showing your managers that you care about their interests will likely cause a trickle-down effect, and you will start seeing your managers caring about their subordinates’ interests.
Do ask me why
If there is anything I could ask Billy Joel, it would be, “Why? Why did you write that song?” Honestly, it’s just plain confusing. Don’t be Billy Joel and let confusion go unexplained—ask why!
If your managers did something you don’t understand or that you don’t agree with, ask them why they made the decision first. Then you can reprimand them, tell them that isn’t the way something should be done, etc. A lot can be explained with simple questions, and the answers can often surprise us. (Bad advice, Billy… seriously.) Leading managers must include questions and open dialogues.
You do have to say you love me
Dusty Springfield was sure willing to do a lot for her man to keep him around, but I’ll tell you that in this day and age if your employees don’t feel the love, they’ll be gone.
One of the best things you can do for your employees is to give them verbal praise. Sincere verbal praise. People like hearing what they are doing right and that they are appreciated.
You shouldn’t have anyone on your team without one redeemable quality, or something positive you can say about them. If you cannot come up with one accolade to give to a team member, then you can thank yourself for that. Meaning you either hired that person or failed to develop someone hired by someone else adequately.
Practice makes perfect
Just like singing your favorite songs over and over makes them stick in your mind (even when you don’t want them to), practicing leading managers is an excellent way to improve your own leadership skills. Remember to apologize, take care of yourself, be a mentor, stay interested, ask for explanations, and show your appreciation.
Ashlee Faulkner, Shareholder and President of Business Development for Journey Colorado sums it up perfectly;
Good leadership is key to any business. Gone are the days of just working for your boss. In any good organization, working with your boss is more of the norm. Showing your team that they can come to you for help, advice, or because they messed up and need some direction, is huge in keeping an open culture and space where people can learn. In leading my team, I’ve always believed being open and honest with them is crucial. If I don’t have an answer or need to apologize, I will because my team respects me for it – and I respect them doing the same! If you lay out the expectations and policies you want your staff to abide by, there should be no question as to what you expect from everyone. At the end of the day, lead with your heart and create a relationship that best fits your organization.
If you embody these things, your managers will also take them on. Again, leading managers is about leading by example. You will see them working to make your job easier, and on down the line. At the end of the day, you might discover that R.E.S.P.E.C.T. means the same thing to you as it does to Aretha and your managers.