My boss rocked back in his chair, tapping his lip with a forefinger. “What exactly do you think my ‘real work’ is?” he asked.
We had been talking about an issue with a man who worked for me. The discussion had been going on for a while and I had just apologized for keeping him from his “real work.”
I stammered out something about what I thought his real work was. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I’m sure it was something about “leadership” or “setting direction,” something that seemed important.
My boss rocked forward in his chair. Now he pointed that index finger at me, “You are my real work.” He paused and looked me in the eye.
“And your real work is helping that fellow we’re talking about do better or find somewhere else to work. The people work is the real work.”
It may sound silly, but that was one of those moments when “the scales fell from my eyes” and I could see clearly. The people work is the real work.
I haven’t always remembered that. I’ve treated people like interruptions and people issues like things I should handle quickly so I could get back to my real work. I’ve been impatient with managers who worked for me when they spent what I thought was too much time on people issues and not their real work.
But I’ll tell you this, when I’ve remembered what my real work as a boss was, everything got better. If you’re a boss, whether you’re a front line supervisor or a CEO or any boss in between, the people work is your real work.
If you want an idea of what that means, Google has provided us all with a template. Their people analytics team identified the following eight key behaviors demonstrated by their company’s most effective managers.
“A good manager
1. Is a good coach
2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage
3. Expresses interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being
4. Is productive and results-oriented
5. Is a good communicator—listens and shares information
6. Helps with career development
7. Has a clear vision and strategy for the team
8. Has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team”
Take a look at that list. Then think about what you do.
Boss’s Bottom Line
The people work is the real work.
What do you think? How does this compare with your experience?