Atlantic Draft

Why I never wanted to be called a "Boss"...

Professional DevleopmentNina Cudney

Boss. The word itself means, "a person who exercises control or authority; specifically, one who directs or supervises workers". Now, I'm not saying the word is used incorrectly or shouldn't be used. I am simply saying that I, personally, never wanted anyone that I worked with to call me their boss. I was not some know-it-all dictator, I did not believe I had all the answers and I certainly was not looking for a battle of the egos. Here's why...

Humans, by nature, do not like to be controlled. As a matter of fact, I am a firm believer that when you try to control employees too much, you begin to lose the creativity and authenticity of the team that you have. What develops is an "us vs. them" mentality and you start to run into some serious rebellious behavior - yes, even with adults. There is a fine line between structure and control if you ask me. Now, I'm not saying to give everyone free reign and have some free for all. That won't work either. Additionally,  I am not saying that your job as a leader is to get your team to "like" you. You will never be a respected leader if that is your main mission. When I was the Dean at a local post-secondary technical school, I was told by a colleague, "If you don't have haters, you're not doing your job right." I will never forget that. I have used that MANY times when talking to friends who are in leadership positions. Does it feel good to hear coworkers talk about you in a negative way? Of course not. However, as a LEADER, you are responsible for rising above the ground floor drama and getting things done. How do you do this? A few lessons that I have picked up along the way...

1) RECOGNITION. Take time - every. single. day. to recognize your team. It can be a two-second email that tells an employee that you appreciate them adapting to the recent changes in the company because you know how hard change can be. You are human too - don't be afraid to let them know that. 

2) FOLLOW YOUR OWN RULES. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen leaders expect of their team what they will not do themselves. A cardinal sin, to be honest. A TRUE leader trains new LEADERS. How can you expect them to rise to the occasion when you are not willing to? You never want to be caught in a situation where your team is always doing the dirty work and your sleeves are never rolled up. 

3) "I DON'T KNOW". Most humans respond to connecting with other HUMANS. HUMANS don't know everything. So, why are you pretending to? A team member comes to you and asks you what the new compliance policy is for the marketing department. You have no clue. It's changed five times since last week! You simply say, "Ya know, it's changed five times since last week and I want to make sure that I give you the right answer. Can I get back to you tomorrow?" The true leaders-in-training will see that as a sign of self-respect and confidence. The "less than stellar" employees will use it as a way to satisfy their own insecurities about their work ethic (or lack thereof) and performance. As a leader, you should know "more about most topics" - not "more about every topic". Know that and be OK with it.

4) HAVE FUN. It is important to maintain your credibility in a leadership position - no argument there. However, every now and then engage in something that shows your team that you are not some stiff who reads company policy all day. Have a holiday party. Have staff appreciation week where something is done every day for one week to show that you recognize their efforts and importance. Be a part of the office birthday parties now and then. Buy some treats for a meeting just because! This goes a LONG way when done with a genuine sense of camaraderie. 

5) DON'T FORGET ABOUT YOU! Look, being a leader is tough work. You will have people pulling at you from all ends. Stress levels increase as you go up the chain (usually) and you are a target for those employees who have an "issue" with authority. This is the reality. Job coaches are an amazing resource when faced with a challenging team. Network with other leaders in your industry to share "war stories" and see how they handle similar situations. Join LinkedIn groups that pertain to your industry and make connections! Take time off - yes, USE YOUR VACATION TIME. The world will survive without you for a few days and coming back rested and ready to rock will help both you AND your team.

Being a leader is a tough responsibility and one that requires personal development along the way. Yes, you will have to develop thicker skin than most but it will help you in your personal life as well. We're all on the same journey in this life - just different cars and different road maps.