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Monica Wofford, CSP, is a leadership development expert and author of Contagious Leadership and newly released, Make Difficult People Disappear.

Is being a boss really a bad thing?

In a recent Linked In conversation, it became apparent that when asked to define Boss, most people saw that as a negative role. But when asked to define Leader, it was all roses and sunshine. Can’t a boss BE a leader or is Boss now the new B Word that has just as much bite as that other one? Is there a reason that we’ve vilified the concept of being a boss and if that’s how we see it, then is any “how to be a better boss?” training or development really going to change their possible perception of you. Here are some ways in which I think we can make a few changes in perception AND performance.

Level the Playing Field

When you become a boss, if you come in guns a blazing you’ll simply proliferate the perception that a boss is a bad thing. IF, instead, you gather the team around and seek first to earn their respect, showcase their value and learn FROM them instead of believe it is only they who have things to learn from YOU, this will level the playing field and at least give your reputation a fighting chance.

BE a Better Boss

The perception of others is usually based on their experience and what has now become nothing more than a habitual belief. If they BELIEVE that boss is a bad thing they are on the lookout for all the bad things you might do and when that happens, no matter what you do, something bad will be seen. Perception changes take time and consistent reinforcement. But, like any problem, the first thing to do is to admit there IS a problem. So, if the team over which you’ve now been promoted as the boss, has had a bad experience in the boss before you, let them know you know there was a problem and that you’d like their input as to how you can be a better boss. It won’t happen overnight and you may not heed all of their feedback, but those you wish to keep will likely pay attention to the efforts you make and make changes in their perceptions.

Be Consistent, Equitable, and Focused

If these three things were all you did as a boss, then the team may still have a complaint or two, but it will be hard to make too much noise about it. Employees complain with regularity about how their bosses are inconsistent, unfair and not focused on them in any way. In fact, most employee complaints we hear from our corporate training clients stem from one of these three issues. Be consistent in your approach: either your door IS always open or you’re hard to reach, but pick a lane. Be equitable: give the same degree of feedback, recognition and perceived value of your time to each person. That doesn’t mean you need to give them the SAME feedback or same kind of recognition or same amount of time, it means that you address their needs in the way THEY need them. (which means you may want to ask them or at least observe) And this leads to your focus. What we promote to positions of power or positions of leadership most often, are those who are task focused. They are either focused on getting it done or getting it right and there is no “it” in person, if you will. What this means is that if you have your eye always on the ball and not the team members who are working to keep the ball in play, then you’re looking at the task or object, watching where it goes and addressing its direction when the only way to change the direction is focus on WHO moved it. In other words, in most cases, focusing on the task is like looking at the symptom and not the real cause of the problem or source of the positive outcome. Focus on the people and you’ll get the proverbial ball to go where you want it go.

What do you believe? Is Boss a Big B Word? If so, that’s likely how you’re being perceived and you might have some work to do.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!


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