Most people loath to say no to promotion, especially if it comes with a higher salary, bigger cabin and better perks. Thus, salesmen become sales managers, software programmers become project managers and reporters become editors. But the transition from being an individual contributor to being a people manager (a boss) can actually be traumatic. From going around saying ‘the boss is such a pain,’ you soon realize being a boss is a pain.
To succeed, the boss is dependent on the performance of his team, which makes the job more complicated than that of an individual performer. It requires the ability to influence and persuade and that’s seldom achieved by being ‘bossy.’ People hate being bossed around, so peremptory orders end up getting minimal compliance. People don’t even follow polite requests from the boss if they don’t agree or believe they have a better way of doing things. Or it just may be that they don’t understand what the boss wants. When it comes to instructions, there’s never a way to cover every contingency.
In the book “Being the Boss: the three imperatives of being a great leader,” Harvard Business School (HBS) professor Linda Hill and management coach Kent Lineback say bosses need to demonstrate competence and character before people agree to follow them. While exercising authority, they need to be transparent and explain their reasoning to the team in order to gain their trust.
Most people think meetings are a chore, but they are actually crucial to leadership. Whether it’s a long-term vision or a short-term plan, bosses need to give people direction and clarity of purpose, without which it is difficult to get anything done. The meetings may be face-to-face in the office, on Zoom, or through WhatsApp groups, but they need to be a platform for discussion where everyone participates.
People also like their bosses to be well connected and wield power in the organization since that ensures he or she will protect them from external pressures and get them the resources they need. In order to be powerful, a boss needs to be well networked. A network is a way of staying informed about what is going on in the organization and also a means for achieving goals. Professor Hill, who teaches in the Executive Development Programme at HBS, says this is the biggest hurdle to the career development of a newly minted boss. Individual performers see it as politics rather than as something constructive that will make things easier for the team.
Finally, when it comes to recognising success, it is not enough for the boss to congratulate the team. Team members want individual recognition for their achievements and it’s up to the boss to provide it, including to those who may be located elsewhere. It is also important to recognize the quiet B-players as well as the more aggressive, attention-seeking A-players. And then there are the hard-to-like employees who test the boss’s maturity. The problem is usually solved with greater familiarity. Once you understand where a person is coming from, it is easier to get along.