Making it Look Easy

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Art Jones was the best of all the supervisors I studied
up close. I brought him in as an expert panelist for local supervisory skills
training and he always had straight answers and good advice for the new

One day I was chatting with Bill, another supervisor I studied in the
research for my programs and Working Supervisor’s Support Kit, and we got to talking about
Art. “The thing about Art,” Bill said, “is that he makes it look easy. It’s like
he comes to work and puts on his slippers.”

“He makes it look easy.” How many times have you heard that phrase describing
a great boss? The great ones make it look easy. But that’s only part of the
story, the way most of them make it look easy is to make it easy. Here are some
of the ways Art managed that feat.

Art had a few, simple, crystal-clear rules. Very few and simple enough that
you didn’t need Art to tell you if you were wondering what to do or if you
violated one of the rules.

Art made sure everyone knew the rules. New team members were told. The rules
came up in conversations and meetings.

Art spent a lot of time talking with his team members. Sometimes the
conversations were work-focused, but most of the time the personal and the work
things mixed together. But every conversation was an opportunity to teach, to
correct, to encourage, or to review.

Art thanked people a lot and praised them a lot and encouraged them to do
more and do better. A colleague once challenged him on that, saying that too
much praise would make his people soft. But Art thought that if you encouraged
people they tried harder and grew more, but if you constantly told people what
not to do, they would stop trying anything.

Art was willing to “deliver consequences.” That’s a phrase I learned from
Art. I once asked him whether it bothered him to discipline someone. “No,” he
said, “whatever they’re getting is because of what they did. I just deliver the

Boss’s Bottom Line

The reason being a boss looked easy for Art was that he made it easy. He kept
things simple, communicated a lot, and made sure everyone on his team knew where
they stood all the time.

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