Sometimes you get what you ask for, and when it’s a promotion to management, that can be quite a shock. “Now what?” you might say. John has some great advice for a new manager, and an experienced one as well. He says, “I hope these ideas are helpful for those of you who are new in your role as a boss, as well as for current bosses, about how best to invest your time and energy to maximize the long-term success of your company or team.” We think you’ll find them useful! – InPower Editors
Last week, a friend called me with a question. She is with an organization she respects, and she likes her boss; in fact, feels a loyalty to him. Her boss is relatively new, less than a year in the position as head of the office, which is quite large.
My friend’s question was, “Should her boss try to win the hearts and minds of everyone, try to make everyone in the office happy, or should he give first priority to those in the office who are really driving the results, those who are the main contributors?”
My friend points out that some in the office simply do not have the drive to be significant contributors. She feels they never have been, and never will be. However, she and a number of the best people feel that the new manager seems to be paying as much, if not more, attention to the under-achievers as he is to those who are key to the office’s success. His goal seems to be, “Kum ba yah.” As a result, the achievers feel slighted and not especially appreciated.
My first reaction was based on my long history with Johnson & Higgins, where we regularly described our firm as team of smart, dedicated professionals who liked working together, were all about the team, and did not have super stars. Our very best did not consider themselves as stars. It was about being great team members.
My general feeling is that everyone wants to do well, to be successful, and that it is the responsibility of a boss to be a leader and to help each person learn, grow, do good work and succeed.
So I told my friend yes and yes, that her boss had to do both, to pay close attention to those who are busting their tails and doing a great job, and at the same time do his best to motivate the others who are not.
My advice was followed by silence. That is not what she wanted to hear from me. She is doing her absolute best to contribute and feels she’ll lose some of her motivation if her boss continues to spend so much time and attention on people who do not deserve it.
And she feels her best colleagues feel the same way.
What to do? I’ve been thinking for a few days now since this conversation. The situation reminds me of an earlier guest leader post (12/3/10) on my site by Dan Knise, a highly capable leader. Dan talked about A, B and C players. The A’s are the best, and while they certainly need to feel appreciated, they do have an inner-confidence, are comfortable in their own skin., and will continue to contribute as much as they can.
The B’s are the ones the leader should give a lot of attention to, to help them become A’s, which they want to do, and generally will, with help, encouragement, and maybe challenges. The Bs can contribute more and are worth the investment of one’s time and energy.
Not so with the C’s. If someone(s) does not have the motivation to truly try, address that. Sure, give them another shot, be specific about your expectations. make clear that you’ll willing to help, and put a time frame on it. If their attitude and effort do not significantly improve, then replace them with people who want to grow and succeed and make a positive difference to the team.
The bottom line for me is—yes,
Do pay attention to everyone; however, consider your time as an investment, and invest wisely, so the focus must be on the best people and those with lots of potential
Let the best people know how much they mean and are appreciated, and thank them for their dedication and contributions.
Definitely help the people with the potential to grow and let them know your expectations. Good people will try live up to expectations if they feel appreciated
Deal with problem employees without too much delay, or you’ll lose the respect of your good people.
Remember, your people want to feel that they are:
- Heard and that their ideas matter
- Important members of a team, a team they are proud of
- Successfully advancing in their careers
I understand my friend’s concern that her boss is vulnerable, that he could be naïve in thinking that everyone is worth his full attention and that he is misguided if he does not realize the crucial importance of demonstrating to his very best people know that they are greatly appreciated.
Another thought. Is her boss doing too much himself? Can he include his best people in helping the office become a winning team? Shared leadership can be very effective.
Presumably there are only four, five or six or so people who report directly to the boss. Enlist them to help create a winning culture.
Getting your team to help with the culture will be effective. Don’t try to do this alone.
Incorporate two approaches.
- Each person in the office needs to understand clearly defined expectations of them, and to specifically be told their boss stands ready to help, and
- The “stay” interview described in my 1/7/13 post, in which people are asked individually what they like about their work, their office team, their organization, and about their ideas and advice to increase productivity and to further improve performance, and similar questions.
Thank you to my friend who asked me to muse about her situation. It certainly caused me to do a lot of thinking about what her boss is doing and how his approach would, I believe, be more effective.
I hope this paper is helpful to many of my readers.
Take charge of your career development to get the job that supports your work and your life. Check out the tools and resources in the InPower Coaching Career Center as well as the InPower Coaching EQ at Work and Soft Skills Research Index.