How can you become a better boss? That’s a good question and an important one. In the work I do coaching, I find that some bosses don’t realize how important their work is to the people they’re in charge of.
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 behaviors.
If you’re a boss who strives to do great work, I believe the most important task you can do is to adjust your thinking. The beliefs and assumptions you hold about yourself, your work and your people will determine your actions, according to Stanford’s Robert Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss.
“The best bosses embrace five beliefs that are stepping stones to effective action,” he writes.
Mindset #1: Goldilocks Management
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 Daniel Ames, PhD, and Francis Flynn, PhD. (of Columbia and Stanford Universities, respectively).
Ames and Flynn speculate that the best bosses would receive an “average” rating from subordinates if measured in competitiveness, aggressiveness, passivity and submission. Stanford experiments confirm that micromanaging employees with relentless attention and advice usually undermines their efforts.
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.
The Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Goldilocks Management
a. Are you managing with just the right degree of assertiveness?
b. Are you creating ways to walk the line between enough intervention and micromanaging?
c. Are you neglecting to give your people guidance, wisdom and the feedback they need to succeed?
d. Are you obsessively monitoring every move and metric?
The best thing you can do right now to start to become a better boss is to explore your mindset. I don’t know of a better way to do that than working with an executive coach who understands the perils of managing with just the right amount of assertiveness.