Someone once described my father as a man who “trails smiles in his wake.” Mike was like that. When he walked around his business, people were genuinely glad to see him. If they weren’t smiling when he showed up, they were usually smiling when he left. My mentor, Leonard, was different.
Leonard’s style was more impatient and gruff. We joked that he managed by prowling around. Personally, he couldn’t have been any more different from Mike, but they were both great bosses, they just did their work in different ways. They both made sure that the job got done and they both showed that they cared for the people who worked for them.
Every Boss Has Two Jobs
In the Marines, I learned that when you’re responsible for a group, you have two jobs. One of them is to accomplish the mission. The other is to take care of the people.
Most people understand the idea of getting the job done, making your numbers, and so forth. What they have trouble understanding is that different personal styles still can take care of the people.
Caring for the People is Something You Must Do
There are several ways that you go about caring for the people. This is not something that you feel, it’s something you do. You may do it naturally. That’s good, but if you don’t do it naturally you must make a conscious effort.
Care for the people by keeping them safe.
That means keeping them safe from you and your moods and biases. It means keeping them safe from The Powers That Be and organizational stupidity that rains on you from above. Keep them safe from each other by attending to group problems right away.
Care for the people by helping them succeed.
Give them the resources they need to do their jobs, including training and coaching. Help them learn to build on their strengths and make their weaknesses irrelevant. Prepare them for whatever comes next.
Care for the people by helping them work together and become a better team.
Just as individuals must learn the skills to be effective, teams must develop skills in working together. Your job as a boss is to help them master those skills.
Care for the people by recognizing that they’re human beings for whom work is only part of life.
Honor their time off and family obligations. Cut them some slack when pressures in their personal life affect their performance at work.
Whether you trail smiles in your wake like Mike, or whether you’re gruff and impatient like Leonard, you can still care for the people. It depends on what you do. Just do it.