Monday, March 3, 2014

Is Working For You Worth It?

Have you ever worked for an amazing boss?  What did you love about them?  Unfortunately most of us, at one time or another, have worked for their evil twin. In today’s world it’s far more common to work for the later.  I am thankful to say that I’ve had both experiences, but unfortunately working for a clunker is far more common than working for a champion. 

So what makes an amazing boss? Here are a few things that I think make the difference.

A Servant’s Heart
We want to work for people that have our best interests at heart. The best bosses are the chief servants of their organizations. Now this doesn’t mean that they are doormats or that they cater to their team’s every wish. Instead it means that they make decisions around what’s best, not what’s most convenient. They set the cultural tone for how people are to be treated and valued.

My first boss out of college was one of the best people for which I’ve ever worked.  At the time, my wife and I were expecting our first child, she was very sick and couldn’t work, so things were TIGHT. My boss knew this and did everything he could to help ease the burden. I got a company car early (I was also kicking butt at growing the business), he organized a wonderful baby gift for us, and he spoiled us during Christmas. He served us in such a way that I wanted to be that person when I had my own employees. When that day came, I spoiled my crew every Christmas, I gave beautiful baby gifts, I celebrated birthdays, and the list goes on.  

Have you ever had a heart-to-heart with your boss and left feeling energized, encouraged, and ready to attack the day, but days, weeks, months later you realize it was all lip service? They never really planned on following through and just wanted to keep you on the hamster wheel. That’s a tough one. As bosses, when we invest in our people to listen, course correct, or motivate, we have to follow through. They are waiting to see if we actually mean what we say.

This is a tough one for a lot of people. Connecting is one of the most distinguishing marks between average bosses and great ones.  John Maxwell says it this way; “You change people not by being an authority, but by connecting with them.”

Ten years ago I earned the opportunity to lead my first business unit in my former company. It was in horrible shape and had enough dysfunction to make a great reality show. My first day there, I met with each person on the team in private and asked them the same series of questions. My goal was to listen and learn about the environment I was entering. It didn’t stop there. I took advantage of opportunities to listen to their stories, learn what they valued, and discover what motivated them. All of this allowed me to build trust and make decisions in strategy, execution, and personnel (yes, I had to release some to be free and find another job).

Personal Development
One of the greatest gifts we can give our teams is teaching them something we’ve learned and how it has made us better. Most people love to hoard good things for themselves. A true developer not only learns for themselves but also for their teams. If you knew that your boss wanted to teach you something to make you better what would that communicate? That’s right, it would show that they care about you and your future. We all want to know that our superior cares about us. Few things communicate that better than teaching something valuable.

As I’ve shared these thoughts, I’ve used the word boss for a reason, but in the end it’s the wrong word. Everyone works for a boss, but few follow a leader. You see, if you only become a boss worth working for, then you’ve missed it.  Bosses manage, but leaders lead. If you take these things to heart, you won’t be a boss; instead you’ll be a leader…a leader that is definitely worth following.