Several years ago I had the opportunity to join a large retail firm in the role of General Manager. During my discussions with my District Manager he let me know that one of my challenges would come from my Assistant. He had interviewed for the job I was hired for and would certainly be disappointed he had not been chosen. After my initial training was completed I worked side by side with the Assistant for a week to try to get to know him. Although he handled everything very professionally I could tell he was holding back some frustration. Early in week two I invited him to lunch so we could talk outside of the store. I started the conversation telling him I understood he was disappointed not getting the promotion and that one of my goals was to help him move forward in his career. I asked him a very basic question; why do you want to be a General Manager? His answer concerned me. He said; I want to be the boss. I want to write schedules that allow me to do the things I want to do after work. I want to make the decisions and have the team do what I want them to do, and I believe that I know more about this store and this business than anyone else. My response; so you want the GM position so you can be the boss? He simply said; yes.
The next day I sat down with him to follow-up on our conversation at lunch. I told him that the first thing he needed to understand was that to be a successful Manager was not about being a boss. And that he would struggle in the Managers role if he made it about himself and his position. I explained that the first step for him was to understand that Management was about building a team and setting a standard of operational execution. Not about being the boss. He would need to communicate, not give orders. He would need to hold himself accountable as well as holding the team too high standards. He would need to earn the respect of his team by being humble and giving respect. And that he needed to involve the team in planning, with the understanding that working with his team would make everyone better.
There are a lot of articles and blogs written about the difference between Management and Leadership. In my view there are actually three styles being used in supervisory roles today. There are Leaders, Managers and those acting as the Boss. So what is the Boss? The Boss is someone who is empowered solely by their position. They believe, as my Assistant did, that because of position everything is about themselves. They give orders, take credit for what goes right and place blame when things go wrong. They have a do as I say, not as I do mentality. They make promises that they have no intention of keeping. They set expectations for the team that they have no willingness to meet themselves. Most of the time they don’t really have a plan. They fight each fire as it comes along and believe that the only important action is the one they want you to do that second, no matter how it affects anything else. Worst of all there is no personal accountability only excuses.
I am a big believer that every person, willing to do so, has a role to play in a company. The important thing is to find the right fit for the person. If a person in your company has the style of Boss they are in the wrong role. I promise you they will have disengaged team members looking for new jobs. People who work for a Boss will do enough to survive but not perform at the highest level. Team members looking for growth will see the Boss as a roadblock to their future. And if you allow people you supervise to be the Boss, instead of being a Manager or hopefully a Leader, you will be consistently fighting results and looking for new people. In business today we need to be developing Managers and Leaders not Bosses.
Managers and Leaders do not have to tell people they are the boss. The people they work with already understand and respect the role and position. We can define Managers as those more focused on Operational Excellence with and understanding of the importance of people. And Leaders as those focused primarily on people and their ability to build effective teams with Operational Excellence. Each of these styles can bring great results. What is important is that we know the style of each of those we have in supervisory positions. And if needed we make changes that are in the best interest of the company and the person involved. Bosses were put in place because someone saw ability or knowledge they felt would make them successful. Unfortunately those skills did not translate into Management skills. We are doing a disservice to the person if we do not help them succeed.
For me I had the opportunity to work closely with my Assistant and help develop his Management and Leadership skills. I also was fortunate enough to move into a District Management role and give him an opportunity to become a General Manager. He made the choice that being a Manager and building a team would give him even more opportunity to meet his personal goals than being the Boss. He realized that an engaged team would bring him better results and less stress. He set a great example for other Managers in the District. Growing a business is challenging in today’s business environment. Making that growth sustainable takes a strong engaged team lead by great Managers and Leaders not by Bosses.