Leadership: A Bunch of Cs for Bosses

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Being a boss is a bit like playing golf. There are 42 bazillion things you can get good advice about and then concentrate on improving. That’s part of the fun.

Since there’s no one set of perfect principles and no short list of the things you must do, your challenge is to suck the important advice for you out of everything you can. Here’s a list of things you should do as a boss. They all begin with the letter “C,” because it was fun.

The list is not exhaustive. The order of the items does not indicate priority.

Change should always move toward better. It’s your job to, as Marcus Buckingham says, “Rally people to a better future.” For that you need to have an idea of what that future might be and how to get there. Then you must keep stoking the fires of the engine of progress, so you keep moving in the right direction.

Coordination is making all the parts work together effectively and efficiently. It’s sometimes boring and it’s sometimes frustrating, but it’s your job.

Control is the “C” word no one seems to want to talk about but paying attention to it is part of your job. You need to exercise close supervision when team members don’t have the ability or willingness to work on their own. But then you need to let go as the willing learn what needs to be done, until one day they can do the work on their own, without you supervising. Then you can move to a “D” word, “delegation.”

Care is a verb. You, your team, and your team members will be happier and more productive if you care about them and care for them. Things will be even better if they care for and about each other. See the next paragraph.

Courtesy and Civility are important. One of the ways we show that we care about others is by being civil. When people feel safe, you have the opportunity to create a great team, so it’s worth doing the hard work to keep things courteous and civil.

Connections give meaning to human beings. It’s your job as a boss to help team members understand their connection to a larger mission. It’s your job to help create an environment where the connections between team members are a form of support. One sign of a healthy team is easy laughter.

Credit should be given. Tell people when they do a good job. Praise them for effort and progress. Praise them to others.

Consequences must be delivered. Behavior and performance should have consequences. The consequences should match up to the performance and behavior. When that happens, we say that you are “fair.” They should match up that way for everyone all the time. When you do that, we say you are “consistent.”

Communication is vital and devilishly hard to get right. Do your best. Check for understanding. Follow up to see if understanding turns into the behavior and performance you expect. Communicate your key messages over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Repeat.

Conversations are an important tool of your trade. Conversations are how you communicate most of the time. They’re how you demonstrate that you care. To have conversations, you must show up and you must be willing to talk about things that don’t involve work.

Confronting others about poor performance and unacceptable behavior is part of the job. That means that some of your conversations will be uncomfortable and scary. When you need to confront someone, do it quickly. The longer you wait, the harder it gets and the less likely it is to end well.

Courage is what you need when things are uncomfortable and scary. Don’t worry, you can develop it, by acting brave even when you’re scared out of your wits.

Boss’s Bottom Line

Pick one. Work on it for a while. Then pick another one. When you’ve worked on them all, start over.

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