How to become a great boss? Not as easy as it sounds. Eavesdrop on a conversation between Bruce Wayne and Alfred on any random day (if you can manage to get past the NASA level security of their palatial private mansion), and if you are not a fan of the Batman universe, you would be forgiven for not being able to tell the employer from the employee. Try spotting the boss in this picture: The one with the earnest – sometimes impatient - voice, or the one with the masterly, calm tone? The one with the eager inquiries and nagging doubts, or the one with the reassuring answers and placid perspectives? The one unwilling to negotiate on his pet peeve (evil), or the one teasing him to experiment with moderation and balance?
In our familiar universe, the second one would be the man in charge. In Batman’s world, however, it is the first one who is, at least technically, the man of the house. But Bruce Wayne - emperor of the multi-billion dollar Wayne Enterprises and lord and master of the lavish Wayne Manor - isn’t worried about showing his vulnerable side and staying real with Alfred, the family valet who bred him single-handedly after Bruce lost his parents to crime in childhood. And while you’ll say that this is far from the regulation Boss - Employee template, what really matters here is the spirit of the thing. And the loud and clear message. That a boss can be much more than just another four-letter word. That said here are a few tips on how to become a good boss from just a boss:
Real-world tips on how to become a great boss
1. By being that 3 am (or, well, 3 pm) buddy.
The best bosses are folks you can share both popcorn and pain with – and a lot in between – without the worry of being judged. A bit like Mark Zuckerberg, perhaps?
Certainly, the Mark from some years back when, with an approval rate of 99%, this spirited and sprightly founder of Facebook was indisputably the world’s favorite boss. Friends are frank, and back in the day, Mark could be charmingly candid when he wanted to. In the words of a Glassdoor spokesperson, “Employees continually comment about Zuckerberg’s ability to paint a clear picture of where the company is headed”. A Facebook employee added, “…Mutual trust company… instilled by our CEO… who we all truly respect.”
How to become a great boss by first being a buddy?
Convert the open door policy (your new, remote business planet may not have doors in the first place) into an open talk policy. Let the criss-cross of ideas, debate, feedback, and small banter bring back the magic of camaraderie, nurture natural rivulets of communication (that morph into strong bonds of ‘belonging’ over time) and tick KPI boxes you didn’t know existed – such as clocking in to work early, doing the extra research everyone avoided bringing up at the boardroom meet, and being a serial samaritan with a chronic empathy symptom.
2. Being more than a boss. By autographing employee cheques.
A good boss must be larger than life. If not, at least the vision must be. The popular joke goes that when you are dreaming, don’t follow your industry’s best practices. This one applies here. A boss with a plan that comes wrapped in a fantastic dream… a boss brimming with intergalactic ideas that come backed with a scary conviction… always generates the best kind of output: Unforgettable memories. Case in point? Our very own Elon Musk.
When your boss’ idea of a weekend off-road is to shoot off into outer space… when s/he can seed an idea in your brain quite literally (neurotech inspired chip implants)… when s/he performs all the cool AI tricks only your comic book heroes once dared (and makes it look like another day at the office)… you start cherishing the signature on your cheque more than the amount. Over time, the scribble becomes a cherished autograph. Yes, Elon is also known to be a driven task-master who can lose his patience sometimes, but once you match his entrepreneurial optimism (call it sunshine if you want), you begin to appreciate the magnificence of the man’s philosophy and the humane-ness of his vision. Which is the moment he turns into superman (or iron man, according to which franchise you support). In short, a boss you wouldn’t mind ‘showing off’ to your old man, or inviting home to try your mom’s besan laddu / apple pie.
How to be a great boss by being more than a boss?
You may not be in the spaceship space, but it’s still your job to lift your employees everyday. Help them dream bigger by designing grander targets. Glorify goals by turning them into stories where your workers play the hero’s role. Make growth meaningful by aligning it with their personality attributes and habits. Leverage surveys and polls to figure out their pulse (and don’t forget that the beat comes straight from the rhythm of their heart).
Spot, stoke and fulfill their intrinsic motivations (native inclinations and passions) via opportunities of learning, self-development, and societal impact to help them experience true satisfaction. Identify, incentivize and reward their external motivations (craving for money, prestige, and material indulgences) by nudging behavior that accelerates success, gamified activities that awaken competitiveness and compensation that matches the milestone – thereby turning projects and missions addictive. In other words, convert adrenalin into a strategy and witness the power of mojo at work.
3. Being more than a boss. By letting your values sparkle (like a ‘ratan’).
You’ll never earn true admiration as a boss unless you put your conviction on the table. Every single day. In other words, engineers value via values, not just tech and talent. Which means willing to place your money where your mouth is. Being there for your employees whenever they need a compass. And staying stubborn whenever it’s a face-off between faith and glory. It’s pretty much what makes Ratan Tata a jewel of the corporate world (the term ‘ratan’, perhaps not coincidentally, stands for precious stone).
The iconic industrialist had the conviction to follow his heart and launch the Nano when no other auto manufacturer would touch the blueprint with a bargepole. He had the chutzpah to acquire Europe’s second largest steel maker. And he personally visited the families of the 80 employees affected by the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008, and still remembers nearly everyone by their first names. Ratan’s heady blend of steely determination and disarming humility is a hark back to his humble, blue-collar beginnings. No, you don’t have to pick up a blue-collar hobby to get under that skin. The color of our collar doesn’t matter as long as it doesn’t have a chip attached to the shoulder.
How to be a great boss by letting your values sparkle?
Break the glass floor (alternatively, help your employees smash the glass ceiling), mingle with them at their level, and give them an opportunity to discover who you really are. Let your values circulate through your actions. Live your principles through your gestures. For instance, understand deficiencies in your rock stars with LIVE progress dashboards and turn coach cum Samaritan when you think that’s required. Turn appraisals fair and just with the visibility of big data and performance analytics. Design your people-tech and talent-infrastructure intuitively to track and measure achievements accurately, so that your compensation and rewards – which should be instant and generous - measure up to the feat.
Keywords that direct a great boss
1. Coaching, Advising, Empowering
Be it constructive feedback, instant updates on the latest breakthroughs and developments, personalized guidance via progress monitoring, in-the-moment nudges that reel in behaviour deviance (as quickly as it occurs), or real time advice (from rank and line leaders with relevant domain experience and technical skills) that accelerate success, enablement and empowerment is an integral part of the Xoxoday experience.
2. Listening, Communicating, Sharing, Collaborating, Uniting
From breaking down silos with the power of free-flowing communication and cross-collaboration to decoding team pulse and tuning into unexpressed pain points and wish lists through surveys and feedback (which helps design a bespoke experience that resonates with individuals across diverse backgrounds) to aligning and updating every employee with the latest business strategies and boardroom decisions to celebrating little and big wins as a unified team to express culture and keep morale high, Xoxoday Empuls lets bosses bring and bind their teams closer than ever.
3. Fuelling Learning, Growth, Development
Surveys, two way communications and advanced performance analytics lets bosses drill deep into the psyche of their employees. The granular insights gained help understand strengths and weaknesses, letting bosses design perfectly customized learning, growth and development courses and programs – taking performance to the next level.
Being more than a boss is all about making the journey more than a race
Your workforce isn’t a bunch of resumes. It’s a throbbing, pulsating hive of dreams, passions, and wish lists. It’s only when you stop managing teams and start nurturing individuals, that you can connect with your employees at a one-on-one level and learn more about those wish lists. And take them on a voyage where the pauses, reflections, and celebrations are the best part of the trip.