You're Not a Regular Boss, You're a 'Cool' Boss -- Would Your Employees Agree?
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As an entrepreneur who started a midsize company (and recently sold it), I can tell you that every business owner wants to be a cool boss. And by cool, I mean likable.
Related: 50 Rules for Being a Great Leader
I don't think anyone starts out as a manager or business owner saying, I'm going to be the boss that people dread seeing at work every day. Unfortunately, it's very hard to be a cool boss. It really is.
Have you ever seen (or been ...) a parent who is losing his cool while his kids run around, slightly out of control or throwing a tantrum? That is very similar to what its like as a boss. When you're in a high-pressure environment, or people make mistakes, or clients are upset, it can be so easy to lose that cool.
So, how do you overcome those tough moments? Try to imagine yourself as a parent who speaks calmly instead (I know, easier said than done ...). It's important to remember that you're there to lead people, and part of that means training them, too. You need to find people you can rely on, create structure and cultivate a culture that produces great work.
On top of it all, the term "culture" within the context of business has been consistently one of the most discussed topics in the last few years. Recent research by Deloitte in its 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report shows that isn't going to change anytime soon, with organizational culture and employee satisfaction still remaining a priority as we head into 2018.
It's not really a surprise that organizations are prioritizing their employees' experience at work. In many ways, you could even argue that this emphasis on ensuring that people are comfortable in their office is long overdue.
So, how can you -- either as a manager, or the supreme leader of the company at large -- create a pleasant work environment while fostering a productive and open environment with your employees?
Firstly, breathe. Don't let the craziness of the day get to you. I know a lot of executives who meditate each morning for 15-30 minutes (although, in all honestly, I personally can not manage to do this). Now that you've got that off your chest, below are a few things that have helped me be a better, cooler boss.
1. Lead by example.
Of course, one of the first things you think about when someone asks you if you're happy in your current role is probably whether your manager is doing a good job. What you determine as "good" is entirely up to you, but from a manager or CEO's perspective, there are a series of things that might help ensure employees are not only satisfied but feel empowered to produce the best work they can.
The most important ways to demonstrate this is through leading by example. Demanding tasks get done may actually get them done, but it won't answer the "why" behind the action, or the many questions your employees may have. Instead of barking orders, take the time to teach employees the proper way to complete projects. Not only will it ultimately get you better work, but your employees will appreciate you taking time out of your day to support them the way they support you.
Another way is to not be afraid to "get dirty" -- one of fitness studio SoulCycle's core ideas. All new employees -- including any level of corporate employee (yes, execs too) -- notoriously work the front desk of a studio several times before starting their actual jobs. This idea of anyone being willing and able to complete any task fosters a work environment filled with camaraderie.
2. Hire for longevity.
As a manager or CEO, you can do yourself (and your company) a big favor by hiring for the future and selecting employees based on culture-fit, rather than specifically whether they're good at hard skills required for the role. This might have sounded crazy years ago, but has been proven effective by some of the world's largest and fastest growing companies.
Organizations are now placing a higher priority on placing in LinkedIn's top employer rankings than anything else. At the top end of these rankings, you'll find companies that value their workers, and offer more than a monthly salary. You need only look at Netflix's culture manifesto for inspiration when it comes to ways you can determine which employees to choose for longevity rather than short-term success.
To accomplish this, Away co-founder Stephanie Korey follows the sage advice of another CEO, Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker: Hire slow. "At the end of the day, you're much better off juggling extra work for a bit longer than you were hoping than bringing on a new team member who isn't perfect for the culture you're building and role you're filling," she told Taste The Style.
3. Empower others to step into leadership.
Part of being a strong manager is knowing when to take a step back and let others shine. While you may be a control freak or like things done just so, sometimes its best to let an employee run point on a big project. But, by empowering others to take initiative, they'll be more likely to think critically, work harder and brainstorm more ideas in the future, as opposed to feeling boxed into their dull daily duties.
4. Create a positive working environment.
Moods are extremely contagious, and as a manager, it is ultimately your role to drive the mood in your team or office. Creating a positive working environment isn't an easy task, but it shouldn't be rocket science either.
Express gratitude to your employees on a regular basis. In addition to the frequent "thank you," ensure you offer some motivational encouragement that will support your employees in all aspects of their career.
Finally, positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for managers. Giving your employees the scope to make a difference, and thanking them for doing so, are two of most compelling positive reinforcement techniques that you can use as a manager.
5. Welcome constructive criticism.
Although you might be higher up on the professional food chain, it doesn't mean you -- or the company -- doesn't have room for improvement. All employees of all levels should be welcome to share their opinions on policies and procedures and pitch new ideas.
Firstly, you never know where the next great idea may come from, so why not empower everyone to be thinking big for the brand? In addition, the idea of being open to constructive criticism creates a sense of partnership between you and your employees; that you both want the best for each other, and for the company.
Try taking a cue from Procter and Gamble CEO David Taylor, who hosts regular "Straight Talk" sessions where employees can give candid feedback for constructive and positive company change, according to Chief Executive.
Related: What It Takes to Be a Great Boss
6. Learn how to handle the heat.
Setting aside the organizational factors that impact how employees perform, and removing generational factors from the equation, if you want to be perceived as a "cool" boss, then you have to be able to handle not just the good, but the bad and the ugly. Hiding from responsibilities when things get tough in the office will only damage your chances of having your employees on your side throughout the rest of the year.
Additionally, there's something to be said for finding a balance between being a supportive figure, and a manager in charge of ensuring that company targets are met each month. It's good to be understanding, grateful, kind and motivational, but with all that comes an increased requirement to be a manager first and foremost.
Forming an organizational strategy that enables a culture-first approach to hiring will massively help you and your company in the long run. Couple that with easy-yet-progressive leadership techniques, and you'll get the most from employees that are happy to commit their efforts toward you and your company for years to come.
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